Her cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry (pictured), began serving a prison sentence in 1997 for crimes that extensive evidence indicates that he did not commit, and she will not stop until justice prevails.
In 1992, Valerie Finley was shot in the head during a home invasion. The purpose of the crime was allegedly to steal her husband, Mike Finley’s, gun collection. Valerie survived the shooting, but after awakening from a coma three weeks later, she identified her husband’s best friend, Rodney, as one of the men who broke into their home.
Forensic reports show that there was no physical evidence that Stanberry was present at the scene; in fact, his claims that he was at work are confirmed by his clock-in sheet at his place of employment, waste management company BFI.
Rodney, now 42, has served 15 years of a 20-year sentence for the attempted murder of Valerie Finley, even though family, friends, and employers have shown unwavering support of his character and no motive for the crime has ever been discovered. Two appeals have been denied thus far, but guess what is the most heinous part of this case.
A man confessed to committing the crime and said that Rodney was innocent.
In 1993, Terrell Moore of Mobile, Ala., confessed to the crime to private investigator Ryan Russell, insisting that not only was Stanberry not involved in any way in the crime, but that he had not seen him at all that fateful day in March of 1992.
According to his testimony, Angel Melendez, a man who had traveled from New York for Mardi Gras, visited the Finley home with Stanberry. After seeing the gun collection, Melendez allegedly decided to steal the guns. Witnesses also identified Moore at the scene as well as his car. In the law office of Clark, Deen & Copeland and in the presence of Assistant District Attorney Buzz Jordan, Moore manned up in a 50-page confession — risking life in prison — to stop an innocent man from serving his time.
The state of Alabama passed on the confession, though: apparently, any old Black man will do when it comes to attempted murder.
According to the website dedicated to Rodney’s release, Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney was adamant that details of Moore’s confession not be presented during trial:
During Rodney’s Rule 32 Hearing, Moore happened to be in the Mobile county lock-up. Rodney notified his attorney and Moore was brought to the stand to the surprise of Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney (See how she reacted).
She was not going to let him say what she already knew, that he confessed, knew details about the victim’s home that only someone who was there would know. The DA’s office continues to perpetuate the false statement that the victim identified Rodney from the time she got out of a coma (Prichard Police placed photos, provided by Rodney, in front of the victim as she was recovering and [asked her]which of these individuals could have been at [her] house.
She pointed- she couldn’t talk at the time- to the person she was familiar with, someone who was often at her house. From there, a series of mistakes and intentional acts occurred by law enforcement and the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to convict Rodney K. Stanberry). The ADA perpetuates the belief that Moore, someone who did not know Rodney was confessing to a crime to protect Rodney. It makes no sense, but they have long been concerned about the conviction and not the truth. No one receives true justice when the wrong person is convicted.
Though it is true that Ms. Finley identified Stanberry (the only familiar face) after awakening from a three-week coma and still recuperating from being shot in the head, there is absolutely no physical evidence linking Rodney to the crime.
In an exclusive interview with NewsOne, District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator Mike Morgan, brushes those facts aside, stating that there is still no reason for Rodney Stanberry to be granted another trial:
“All the evidence was heard by the judge during the trial. A decision was made not to allow the jury to hear Terrell Moore’s testimony. A jury found Mr. Stanberry guilty after a trial; that’s why we have a jury system. I will agree with your statement that eye-witness testimony is the most unreliable testimony, but not in this case. Valerie Finley identified Stanberry; she knew him.
For there to be a new trial, “new and compelling” testimony would have to be presented. Even if the jury was not allowed to hear Moore’s testimony, that was a decision made by the judge.”
When pressed on whether he would push for another trial for Rodney, in light of the overwhelming evidence that points to his innocence, Moore was hesitant:
“Again, I believe Rodney has had a number of parole hearings, there has been no new and compelling evidence. Everything you’re talking about was brought before a judge at the time of the case.”
When asked about the district attorney making Moore fearful of prosecution just as he was sworn-in to testify in Stanberry’s defense, leading him to plead the fifth amendment, Morgan’s response was brief:
“Well, it’s everyone’s right not to incriminate themselves.”
The wheels of justice came to a screeching halt when Valerie Finley died from an unrelated illness four months after the incident. Her alleged shooter, Angel Melendez, was murdered in New York during a botched drug deal and many considered the case to be a done deal. Still, as time marches on and Rodney remains in prison for crimes that he clearly did not commit, Dr. Stanberry is mobilizing anyone and everyone who is willing to take a stand against the predatory judicial system:
The prosecutor convicted Rodney almost exclusive on eyewitness testimony. 3/4th’s of the convictions that have been overturned via use of DNA technology have been based on eyewitness identification. The ADA had no evidence to convict Rodney, there were no masks, gloves, fingerprints, his coworkers- including his supervisor- confirmed his whereabouts. The prosecutor had a theory that drove him, rather than evidence and facts, says Dr. Stanberry.
[District Attorney Ashley Rich] has received so many calls that she asked her new investigator to call around to see why people were calling. In honor of her first year as DA, I am asking that people call to follow up to see what she is doing with regard to [Rodney’s] case. More importantly, I’m asking people to ask her to take steps to either get the Attorney General to investigate Rodney’s case, retry or release him immediately.
District Attorney Ashley Rich has been in office for one year this week (she has served as Assistant District Attorney for 14 years, but she has been DA for this past year). She has received a steady stream of phone calls and emails from around the country throughout her first year in office, including a very successful call-in last February that put Rodney’s name on her plate.
NewsOne is partnering with Dr. Stanberry to see justice served in this case. While Rodney is not facing death, as in the state-sanctioned murder of Troy Davis, he has lost many valuable years of his son’s life and with his ailing parents. He lost out on income and the ability to care for his family; they stripped him of basic human dignity and fairness under the law and continue to do so today without remorse.
The state of Alabama stole this man’s life from him and Black America should stand together and say:
This is 2012. Not this time; not this Black man.
To contact District Attorney Ashley Rich, please call: 251-574-6685
Newsone’s calls to District Attorney Rich had not been returned at press time. This story will be updated with her response.