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Lawsuit Filed in Wrongful Conviction Case: Rodricus Crawford v Caddo Parish Coroner's Office, Former DA Dale Cox & Others

SHREVEPORT, LA

A lawsuit was filed yesterday by Rodricus Crawford against the Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office, former District Attorney Dale Cox and others for Rodricus’s wrongful conviction and death sentence. Having been exonerated and freed from death row, Rodricus is now seeking justice for himself and his family for the years he was unjustly incarcerated.

Rodricus was wrongfully arrested, charged and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death when his one-year-old son, Roderius, died in 2012. Roderius was suffering from pneumonia at the time of his death, and bacteria in his blood indicated that the death was due to sepsis.

From the moment the Crawford family called for help, the criminal justice system and institutions in Shreveport treated Rodricus Crawford like a criminal. From the 911 operator to the Coroner, the paramedics to the prosecutor, officials assumed that Rodricus Crawford was a murderer– rather than a loving father attempting to take care of a sick child.

The lawsuit against the Coroner’s Office, paramedics, the Fire Department, and former prosecutor Dale Cox, along with the DA’s Office details the defendants’ failure to properly train and supervise, to adhere to professional standards, to take the care that citizens expect and deserve from our officials.

William Claiborne, an attorney for Rodricus stated :

Just because you live in one part of town, or your house has more family living in it; just because you are poor or a person of color, doesn’t mean they can treat you like a criminal. We have laws against that in this country.

Cecelia Kappel, the attorney who led the effort to exonerate Rodricus and who continues to pursue justice for Mr. Crawford stated:

Caddo Parish should never again assume that a father is guilty of killing his child just because of his race and his poverty. Shreveport will never be able to make Rodricus and his family entirely whole, but it must take steps to ensure this never happens again, that it should spend its effort helping families heal rather than pursuing vengeance.

For more information contact:

Cecelia Kappel, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

William Claiborne, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


Rodricus Crawford Sues - Wrongful Conviction Based on Prosecution Focused on Race and Religion - Not Evidence

After being wrongfully convicted, Rodricus Crawford files a complaint against those responsible for his unlawful confinement. Mr. Crawford lanquished on death row for 5 years- wrongfully convicted by a prosecution who cared more about race and religion with a complete indifference to evidence.

KSLA News 12 Breaks the story of Rodricus Crawford's Complaint. 

 

Attachments:
Download this file (Crawford Complaint.pdf)Crawford Complaint

Complaint Filed Against Louisiana Prosecutor Hugo Holland

NEW ORLEANS, LA

Capital defense attorney / civil rights lawyer Nick Trenticosta filed a formal complaint with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor today complaining of fraud, waste and abuse by Louisiana prosecutor Hugo Holland and several District Attorneys and requesting an investigation. The loss to Louisiana taxpayers is said to be over one half million dollars.

The complaint is based upon documents secured by the Promise of Justice Initiative revealing that Holland receives payment for acting as an Assistant District Attorney in up to ten parishes at the same time, including two supposedly full-time positions. In addition to his multiple salaries, Holland gets paid a premium hourly rate to seek the death penalty, having branded himself as one of Louisiana’s lead capital prosecutors.

Nick Trenticosta, the lawyer who filed the complaint, recognized that Holland could retaliate against him or his clients: “Holland is a bully – wears his gun and badge in court trying to intimidate those who represent the poor. Prosecutors are supposed to be ministers of justice not hired guns double billing the taxpayers.”

Trenticosta’s formal complaint follows a lengthy review of Holland’s career published by Radley Balko of the Washington Post, titled “How a fired prosecutor became the most powerful law enforcement official in Louisiana.” The article used employment records collected by the Promise of Justice Initiative to demonstrate how Holland had secured a number of jobs with “at least 10 parishes” resulting in a salary of “at least $210,000.” To put that into perspective, Louisiana’s governor makes $130,000 per year. The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court makes $167,000.

Using documents secured by the Promise of Justice Initiative, the Post article describes how Holland gets paid both as a prosecutor and as an unregistered lobbyist, lobbying the legislature for harsher punishments and to cut funding for the indigent capital defendants he prosecutes.

Holland first received attention in 2012 as one of two prosecutors forced to resign after an investigator was fired for accusing Holland of filing false paperwork to obtain assault rifles from the Department of Defense. When it became clear that Holland had authorized the submission of false documents to the Federal Government, the investigator ultimately received a settlement for wrongful termination. Alexander Burris, Caddo DA: Settlement in Neighborhood of $447,000.

The Promise of Justice Initiative began tracking Holland’s work after he was fired. After Holland was fired, he was given a new job virtually immediately by D.A. John DeRossier, the then head of the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association (LDAA) and signed a contract with the Caddo Parish DA’s Office to lobby on behalf of the LDAA. Since then, Holland has amassed a staggering number of contracts and become the highest paid assistant district attorney in Louisiana.

An article from June, 2017 by Jim Mustian of the Baton Rouge Advocate introduced Holland “Meet ‘controversial’ Louisiana prosecutor: an outspoken death penalty champion with cat named after Lee Harvey Oswald.” In that article, Holland boasted that he could operate in ten different parishes as a prosecutor because it will take him 15 minutes to review a file that might take another lawyer five hours.

Trenticosta’s complaint raises specific concerns about: dual office holding (holding two full-time state positions at once); pay roll fraud; and, improper unregistered lobbying. In addition to the false paperwork filed to obtain assault rifles, Holland has been found to have withheld favorable evidence from the defense; half of the death sentences he has obtained have been reversed or set aside. Holland continues to skirt the consequences of his actions, and as the Washington Post article revealed – he has doubled his salary since he was dismissed for filing false documents with the federal government.

The data collected by PJI identifies three fundamental problems with the way Holland operates: first he is billing the state of Louisiana for more than two full time jobs; second, he is getting paid to lobby with state funds without registering as a lobbyist; and third whether it is illegal, Holland appears to think that the rules do not apply to him. Ben Cohen, Of Counsel at PJI, observed “It’s a dangerous world-view for a guy in charge with deciding who lives and who dies.”

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor is responsible for gathering evidence regarding fraudulent or abusive activity affecting governmental entities. Their audits are designed to detect and deter the misappropriation of public assets and to reduce future fraud risks.

 

 

 

PJI Fights to Hold Prosecutors Accountable: Research Informs Washington Post Article

Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland 
(via Washington Post/Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP) 
 
 

 
          Last week, Radley Balko of the Washington Post did a lengthy review of Holland’s career,  titled “How a fired prosecutor became the most powerful law enforcement official in Louisiana.” The piece used employment records collected by the Promise of Justice Initiative to demonstrate how Holland had secured a number of jobs with “at least 10 parishes” resulting in a salary of “at least $210,000. To put that into perspective, Louisiana’s governor makes $130,000 per year. The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court makes $167,000. 

          Hugo Holland first received attention in 2012 as one of two prosecutors forced to resign after an investigator was fired for accusing Holland of filing false paperwork to obtain weapons from the Department of Defense.  When it became clear that Holland had authorized the submission of false documents to the federal government, the investigator ultimately received a settlement for wrongful termination.  Alexander Burris, Caddo DA: Settlement in Neighborhood of $447,000.

           The Promise of Justice Initiative began tracking Holland’s work after he was fired. In April of 2015, the Baton Rouge Advocate noted that if it were not for Caddo Parish, and the pre-eminence of two prosecutors – Dale Cox and Hugo Holland, the death penalty would have largely been phased out in Louisiana. Capital Punishment in Caddo Parish Cottage Industry in Louisiana.

            An article from June, 2017 by Jim Mustian of the Baton Rouge Advocate introduced Holland “Meet ‘controversial’ Louisiana prosecutor: an outspoken death penalty champion with cat named after Lee Harvey Oswald.”  James Gill wrote an op ed on the piece, “A Louisiana man, his deadly obsession and why he gets paid handsomely for it.”

           Using documents secured by the Promise of Justice Initiative, the Washington Post article describes how Holland receives payments both to lobby the legislature on behalf of more punitive punishments including retaining the death penalty – and then secures financial benefit for handling death penalty cases.  The article quotes PJI’s Ben Cohen: ““Hugo Holland captures everything that’s wrong with the criminal-justice system in Louisiana…”

           Significantly, the Post article makes clear that while Holland seeks the most punitive sanction for the defendants he prosecutes, he seeks to avoid sanction and responsibility for his own misconduct.  The article observes:
 

Cohen, the Louisiana defense attorney, says it’s a cruel irony for a state so enamored with retributive justice to then go out of its way to excuse rule-breaking by the public officials who administer that justice. “The same people who scream about accountability and personal responsibility when it comes to crimes by [others] are constantly looking for ways to excuse one another for prosecutor misconduct,” he says.
 

            The Washington Post article highlights a series of cases where Holland has withheld favorable evidence from the defense, but avoided sanction from the Bar or the courts.  Included within this series of cases, the article notes Holland’s prosecution of Corey Williams, who was a sixteen year old intellectually disabled child when he was accused of committing capital murder.

            While Williams’ defense attorneys tried to tell the jury that older more savvy teenagers had placed the blame on intellectually disabled Corey Williams, Holland argued that the defense was suggesting the “greatest conspiracy since the murder of JFK.”  The Post article details how Holland was sitting on taped statements of the older teenagers that revealed that even “even the interrogating officers believed at the time that the other teens were framing Williams.” 

PJI continues to seek ways to seek justice and hold prosecutors accountable, both by fighting for people like Corey Williams, and holding prosecutors like Hugo Holland accountable.
 
 

 

 

Lambert v. Louisiana - PJI Fights to End Discriminatory Non-Unanimous Juries

Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that support convictions from non-unanimous juries. Prosecutors only need to persuade 10 out of 12 jurors to secure a felony conviction that doesn't involve the death penalty. 

These jury systems are a direct vestige of a history of white supremacy and oppression. Lambert v. Louisiana gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to reverse this historical racism in favor for more egalitarian and fair jury systems. 

Louisiana leads the nation, and the world, in incarceration.  Per capita, it leads the country in wrongful convictions and exonerations.  While non-unanimous juries may not be the sole cause, the Promise of Justice Initiative believes that the lack of unanimity undermines confidence in the administration of justice.  We believe that the 10-2 verdict is a lasting monument to – as well as a daily resurrection of – the time when the State had no interest in preserving and protecting the rights of African-American citizens.   

The Washington Post's recent article These Jury Systems are Vestiges of White Supremacy emphasizes the racist background of non-unanimous juries: 

In Louisiana: "The historical reasons behind the jury systems in Louisiana and Oregon offend our democratic values. Louisiana required unanimous verdicts when it became a territory in 1803, but non-unanimous verdicts were formally adopted as law during Louisiana’s 1898 constitutional convention, where lawmakers declared that their “mission was . . . to establish the supremacy of the white race.” At the same convention, Louisiana adopted literacy tests for voting and one of the South’s first “grandfather clauses,” which exempted white voters whose father or grandfather had previously voted from taking literacy tests.

 

Eliminating unanimity accomplished two things. First, the change paved the way for quick convictions that would facilitate the use of free prisoner labor as a replacement for the loss of free slave labor. Second, it ensured that African American jurors could not use their voting power to block convictions of other African Americans. An 1870 editorial in the New Orleans Daily Picayune posited that the recently emancipated were 'wholly ignorant of the responsibilities of jurors, unable to discriminate between truth and falsehood in testimony, and capable only of being corrupted by bribes.'"

In Oregon: "In Oregon, the 1934 change from a unanimous to a non-unanimous jury system targeted primarily ethnic and religious minorities. By the 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan found widespread acceptance in the state. Anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic sentiments peaked in 1933, when a jury failed to convict a Jewish man in the murder a Protestant man, instead handing down a verdict of manslaughter. The Morning Oregonian blamed the verdict on “the vast immigration into America from southern and eastern Europe, of people untrained in the jury system.” It then accused immigrants of making “the jury of twelve increasingly unwieldy and unsatisfactory.” The following year, Oregon passed a ballot measure to allow felony convictions based on a less-than-unanimous vote."

 

Learn more about PJI's work to end non-unanimous juries in Louisiana.