PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Reporter John Simerman has provided consistent, perceptive reporting on the Rodricus Crawford case for The New Orleans Advocate. Here is his story on the momentous Louisiana Supreme Court vacating the 28-year-olds conviction and death sentence.
STORY: "La. Supreme Court vacates conviction, death sentence for Caddo Parish man in death of toddler son," by reporter John Simerman, published by The Advocate on November 16, 2016.
GIST: The Louisiana Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction and death sentence of a Shreveport man in the 2012 death of his toddler son, ordering a new trial for Rodricus Crawford after finding that the trial judge botched the constitutional process to exclude several black people from the jury. The decision marks the latest reversal of a death sentence from Caddo Parish, the state's leader in sending people to death row. Including Crawford, Caddo Parish juries have sentenced five people to death since 2010, accounting for 38 percent of the state's total death sentences in that time. Critics of that record place much of the blame on former Acting District Attorney Dale Cox, a prosecutor who once wrote a memo saying that Crawford "deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies." Cox declined to run for district attorney last year, citing the distraction of national media scrutiny of his vocal pursuit of the death penalty. New District Attorney James Stewart said the case would be reassigned to a new prosecutor to determine "a proper course of action" in the case against Crawford in the Feb. 16, 2012, death of Roderius Lott......... The boy was nine days past his first birthday when he fell asleep with his father on a foldout couch at the Shreveport home where Crawford lived with his mother and other relatives. In the morning, Crawford, now 27, shouted frantically, "Look at the baby, look at the baby, what's wrong with Bobo?" while relatives called 911. Authorities found bruises on the baby's buttocks and a broken lip. Crawford told police the child had fallen in the bathroom and insisted he never harmed him. A forensic pathologist diagnosed his cause of death as smothering, then stood by that account even after test results came back showing that the boy had pneumonia and that his blood was positive for streptococcus bacterial. Crawford's attorneys argued that the jury relied on bad forensic science and skipped over strong indications that the boy died of sepsis, rather than at his father's hands. They cited the forensic pathologist's testimony that Crawford "more likely than not" smothered his son — an assessment they claimed wasn't nearly enough to convict him. Crawford's attorneys also noted that Cox, the prosecutor, had urged the jury to sentence Crawford to death because it's what he said Jesus would do. In a 36-page opinion, the Supreme Court declined to accept those arguments, citing a high legal bar for overturning a jury's verdict based on evidence it heard at a trial. Justice John Weimer wrote that "the alternative hypothesis of death by natural causes in this case is not sufficiently reasonable that a rational juror could not have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Instead, the court found that the ad hoc trial judge, Joe Bleich, conflated a three-step process that the U.S. Supreme Court has laid out to ensure that prosecutors aren't removing potential jurors based on their race......... Justice Jeannette Knoll agreed with the decision to overturn Crawford's conviction but, in a separate written opinion, said she would have acquitted Crawford based on a lack of evidence that he killed the boy. Chief Justice Bernette Johnson also endorsed Knoll's view."
The entire story can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/c