Montaigne Medal award for “most thought-provoking” book
Foreword INDIES 2020 Book of the Year Award (Silver, Political & Social Sciences)
First Horizon Award for “superior writing” by a “debut author”
Paperback now available!

On Death Row for a Murder that Wasn’t?

Rodricus Crawford sits on Louisiana’s death row, awaiting execution for the murder of his one-year-old son, Roderius.

But although Roderius (affectionately called “BoBo”) is dead, he likely was not murdered – not by his father. Or by anyone else.

Dale Cox was the Lousiana prosecutor against Crawford, a case which rested almost exclusively on the testimony of a state forensic pathologist who claimed that bruises on the child’s lip were consistent with death by smothering. It was undisputed that Bobo had fallen the day before, a fact confirmed by the child’s mother and a fact that explained the bruised lip. More importantly, BoBo also was found to have pneumonia is his lungs, a fact that the same state forensic pathologist dismissed as mere “coincidence.”

Another forensic pathologist, Daniel Spitz, disagreed. After reviewing the case, Spitz concluded that BoBo died of pneumonia. Spitz added that, in his opinion, there:

wasn’t enough evidence to even put this before a jury. You didn’t have anybody who thought this guy committed murder except for one pathologist who decided that it was homicide on what seemed like a whim.

And it is not just Spitz. Other pathologists agree that BoBo likely died of pneumonia. The Innocence Network filed an amicus brief on behalf of Crawford, in which they too argue that BoBo died of an illness, not murder.

So why is Crawford still sitting on death row?

The answer may be as twisted, as it is true: he had the misfortune of being prosecuted by Cox.

Lousiana’s use of the death penalty has been on the decline in recent years. But not in Caddo Parish, a county in Louisiana, which is responsible for most of the state’s death sentences. Between 2010-2015, 8 out of 12 death sentences came from Caddo Parish. Of those eight death sentences, Dale Cox was responsible for four.

Cox is an ardent believer in capital punishment who proudly believes “we need to kill more people.”

And he doesn’t just believe in the death penalty. He believes that people who are sentenced to die should physically suffer, a philosophy long-ago rejected by the Supreme Court. After Crawford was sentenced to die, Cox wrote to the state’s probation department: “I am sorry that Louisiana has adopted lethal injection as the form of implementing the death penalty,” because “Mr. Crawford deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies.”

Many folks who have reviewed Crawford’s case would strongly disagree; it is no mere “coincidence” that Crawford has been featured as an example of the death penalty gone terribly wrong, and that he is currently the subject of two different petitions to gain his release.

The potentially good news is that there’s a new prosecutor in Caddo now.

James Stewart, an African American, was elected to be the District Attorney of Caddo Parish for the next five years. Cox is no longer with the office.

With a new DA, there is a new opportunity for a second-look at Crawford’s case. And with a just announced death penalty moratorium in Louisiana due to questions about its execution methods, now is the perfect time for Stewart to reexamine whether Crawford should even be in prison, let alone on death row.

Ten people have already been exonerated from Louisiana’s death row. Perhaps Stewart will help Crawford be its number eleven.

Published in The Wrongful Convictions Blog 06/06/2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *