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death penalty news----LOUISIANA
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-19 19:29:58 UTC
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April 19


LOUISIANA:

Rodricus Crawford Exonerated from Louisiana Death Row

Caddo Parish Prosecutors Drop Charges After Medical Evidence Suggests No Crime
Occurred


At the request of local prosecutors, a Caddo Parish, Louisiana trial court has
dismissed all charges against Rodricus Crawford, making him the 158th person
exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973 and the second to be
exonerated this year. Mr. Crawford had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to
death in 2012 for the murder of his 1-year-old son, Roderius Lott, despite
medical evidence that the child actually died of a combination of pneumonia and
sepsis.

“In many respects, this case may reflect both the past and future of the death
penalty in America,”
said Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
“A jurisdiction with
a history of racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and overuse of the death
penalty chose to pursue
a death sentence against a grieving father, despite evidence that his child had
unexpectedly died of
natural causes. But as in increasing numbers of counties across the country,
local voters were put
off by these types of abusive prosecution practices and elected a new District
Attorney, who took a
fresh look at the evidence and acted in the interests of justice.”

Mr. Crawford’s case attracted national attention amid evidence of race
discrimination, prosecutorial
excess, and scientifically false forensic testimony. During trial, prosecutor
Dale Cox—who
personally prosecuted 1/3 of all the cases in which Louisiana juries returned
death sentences
between 2010-2015—presented testimony from a local doctor that Mr. Crawford’s
infant son had been
suffocated. However, autopsy results showed pervasive bronchopneumonia in the
baby's lungs and
sepsis in his blood. Cox later told the jury that Jesus Christ would have
imposed the death penalty
against Mr. Crawford.

In 2014, two years after the trial, Cox wrote an internal memorandum stating
that Mr. Crawford
“deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before
he dies.” Cox gained
national notoriety a year later when, as Acting District Attorney, he told The
Shreveport Times that
he thought the state needed to “kill more people.”

In November 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned Mr. Crawford’s
conviction, ruling that Cox
had exercised the government’s discretionary jury strikes on the basis of race
to unconstitutionally
exclude black jurors from serving in the case. When the parish’s new District
Attorney, James
Stewart, re-examined the evidence in the case, he asked the court to drop the
charges against Mr.
Crawford.

Caddo Parish is one of five major U.S. counties in which local voters have
replaced prosecutors
known for aggressive use of the death penalty with new prosecutors who promised
systemic criminal
justice reforms, including reduced reliance on capital punishment.[1] “With
these new prosecutors,
we are seeing a greater commitment to fairness, one that we hope will translate
into greater efforts
to correct the miscarriages of justice that have resulted in condemning
innocent people to death,”
Dunham said.

With the formal dropping of charges, Rodricus Crawford becomes the 11th person
exonerated from
Louisiana’s death row, and the second from Caddo Parish. In 2014, Glenn Ford
was released from
Louisiana’s death row after 30 years. A death sentence imposed on Corey
Williams, an intellectually
disabled Caddo Parish prisoner who was 16 at the time of his alleged crime, has
been overturned, but
he is still serving a life sentence despite evidence that his confession was
coerced and that others
committed the offense for which he was condemned.

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) today added Mr. Crawford to its
Innocence List at
http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row. To be
included on DPIC's
Innocence List, defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death and
subsequently either: (a)
been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death
row, or (b) had all
charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the
prosecution or the
courts, or (c) been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
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