On September 7, 2016, at 9:30 a.m. the Louisiana Supreme Court will hear arguments in Rodricus Crawford’s case. Crawford is second on the docket for the Court. Live broadcasting of the argument is at the Louisiana Supreme Court’s website at www.lasc.org. Crawford has been in prison for more than four years. He is currently on death row.
On February 16, 2012, Rodricus Crawford’s one-year-old son died in his care. His son was suffering pneumonia, and succumbed to sepsis during the night. Sepsis is the one of the leading causes of death in infants. Shoddy work by the State’s pathologist resulted in the case being identified as a homicide, and Crawford being prosecuted for first degree murder.
Crawford’s case comes out of Caddo Parish, which has been highlighted by the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard as an outlier county, responsible for a disproportionate number of death sentences. The report identifies the combination of over-zealous prosecutors, overwhelmed defense lawyers, and racism as the reason for these disproportionate death sentences. Crawford was prosecuted by Dale Cox, who was described as one of America’s “deadliest prosecutors.”
Race permeates much of this case. A study done on Caddo Parish, LA showed that African Americans are struck from death penalty cases at three times the rate of non-black jurors. Discrimination based upon race or religion is anathema to the core values of the state and the country. And yet, a new empirical study indicates that roughly a quarter of those called for jury service in Louisiana capital cases were disqualified for their religious views. Sixty percent of African-Americans were removed based upon their conscientious views on the death penalty. It appears – from those responding to his 911 call, to the ER doctor, the Medical Examiner and the trial prosecutor – that state officials jumped to the wrong conclusion that Crawford was guilty based in part upon their racial bias and stereotypes.
Rodricus Crawford’s Brief on Direct Appeal raised twenty-three different issues, including the strong argument that he is actually innocent. There is no confession, no eye-witness testimony that Mr. Crawford ever hurt his child, and no DNA evidence; indeed, the evidence indicates that there was not even a crime. The Promise of Justice has grave concerns that Crawford the State of Louisiana has sentenced an innocent man to death.
After excluding from the jury all those who opposed the death penalty based upon their religious views, the prosecutor, Dale Cox, argued to those remaining that the teachings of Jesus Christ required the imposition of the death penalty on Rodricus Crawford. Over one hundred clergy filed an amicus brief at the Louisiana Supreme Court, explaining that the prosecutor’s argument was both wrong as a matter of faith, and improper as a matter of justice.
The State of Louisiana’s Brief is here. The only basis for the State’s conviction is the claim of a single doctor, who could only claim that — more likely than not — it was a homicide. This is not the kind of confidence we expect out of our justice system when assessing a misdemeanor, let alone a capital case.
In response to the State’s Brief, Crawford’s lawyers filed a Reply Brief, and an affidavit from Dr. Jeffrey S. Kahn, Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology, M.D.-PHD who concluded “the facts presented in this case are entirely consistent with an overwhelming Streptococcus pneumonia infection which, tragically, resulted in the death of this child,” an affidavit from Dr. Philip D. Fernsten, who swore that the State’s medical examiner made material errors in his testimony; and an affidavit from Dr. Thomas Young, who swore to a “reasonable degree of medical certainty” “the cause of the death [was] really not a mystery” noting that the autopsy revealed streptococcus, bacterial infection in the blood which can lead to “sudden unexpected death not only in susceptible infants and toddlers but also in susceptible teenagers and adults.” Taken with the evidence provided in the Motion for New Trial, the evidence is overwhelming that Rodricus Lott’s death was not a homicide, but a tragic death from illness.
Out of grave concern over the case, the Innocence Project filed an Amicus Brief at the Louisiana Supreme Court, supporting Mr. Crawford explaining how the medical science established that Crawford was innocent. Nine separate doctors who have reviewed the evidence in this case have provided affidavits, reports or testimony, asserting that it is unlikely that this case was a homicide let alone a first degree murder.
Cecelia Kappel is arguing the case on behalf of Rodricus Crawford. She can be reached by email at email@example.com
Donations to assist the Crawford family attend the oral argument can be made here, including the submission line “Crawford”. 100% of the proceeds of your donation will be used to cover Mr. Crawford’s family’s travel costs.