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April 27, 2023 40 mins

On the morning of February 16th, 2012, Rodricus Crawford awoke to find his one-year-old son Roderius Lott unresponsive. After the infant died, investigators believed Crawford was responsible, and he was convicted of homicide. Crawford wrongfully spent years on death row, before new revelations led to his eventual release. We talk about the issue of death penalty convictions with Maurice Chammah, Staff Writer for The Marshall Project and author of "Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty.” 

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
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are solely those of the individuals participating in the show
and do not represent those of iHeartRadio or Tenderfoot TV.
This podcast contains subject matter which may not be suitable
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Speaker 2 (00:26):
Hi, everyone, welcome back to Facing Evil.

Speaker 3 (00:29):
I'm Evet Gentila and I'm Raschia Pecquerrero. This week we
are talking about the unfortunate death of an infant named
Ruderius Lott, and then we're going to talk about the
trial of his father, Rodriguez Crawford, who was initially convicted
of killing his own son in twenty thirteen.

Speaker 2 (00:49):
That's right, Rasia. It was believed that Rodriguez had killed
his one year old son, and he was given the
death penalty. However, there were a number of glaring ish
us in his trial, which you know, we'll get too later,
but luckily Rodriguez was exonerated. This case gets into another
angle on the issue of wrongful conviction, which is why

(01:12):
today we are talking with Maurice Shama, a staff writer
for The Marshall Project and author of a book about
the death penalty.

Speaker 3 (01:21):
Yes, and I am incredibly honored to be speaking with
Maurice here today in just a bit. But first our
producer Trevor is going to take us through today's case.

Speaker 4 (01:33):
He was arrested, tried, and convicted for killing his one
year old son. He was sentenced to Angla's death row.
After five years on death row, he is now a
free man.

Speaker 5 (01:44):
If I were him, I wouldn't be able to sleep at.

Speaker 2 (01:47):
Night having put an innocent man on death row, and
he could have very well been executed for that.

Speaker 4 (01:53):
And you send in the sale and they time about
pen a need on you for some you didn't do,
and then you lose your son, your child a sight.

Speaker 1 (02:03):
Roderius Lot was a one year old from Shreveport, Louisiana,
who died mysteriously on the morning of February sixteenth, twenty twelve.
His parents were Lecendra Lot and Rodrikus Crawford. The night before,
Crawford had gone to sleep in the same bed as
his infant son, but when Rodrikus woke up that morning,

(02:23):
he found Rodarius unresponsive. Rodrikus's uncle called nine one one,
and the operator instructed them to perform CPR and Rhodarius
while they waited for help to arrive, but when paramedics
finally got there, they determined that Rodarius had died. Police
officers on the scene sought out Rodrikus for questioning. They

(02:44):
discovered that he had an open warrant for marijuana possession.
In the past. He'd also been arrested for battery and
for minor traffic infractions such as driving with his head
lights off or not wearing a seatbelt. Officers began to
interrogate Rodrikus, asking him how Rodarius received ruses on his
head and lip. Rodriquez told them that his son had

(03:04):
slipped in the bathroom the day before, fell in between
the tub and toilet, and hit his head. This account
was corroborated by Lekendra, who also mentioned that Rhodarius was
showing signs of a cold that day. But that same morning,
an autopsy was performed by a police pathologist named James Traylor.
Trailer determined that the bruises on Rhodarius's lips were the

(03:25):
marks of smothering. He also noted that the baby had
had pneumonia, but decided that the illness wasn't severe enough
to cause death, but based on Traylor's findings, District Attorney
Dale Cox charged Rodriquez with homicide and said that he
would seek the death penalty. Cox was a notoriously strong
proponent of capital punishment and a highly controversial da known

(03:48):
for violent, racist, and often dogmatic behaviour. According to The
New Yorker, in Caddo Parish, where Crawford was tried, more
people have been sentenced to death per capita, seventy seven
percent of them black, than in any other county in
America between twenty eleven and twenty fifteen. Cox was responsible
for more than a third of the death sentences in Louisiana.

(04:12):
Before the trial, Cox even went so far as to
eliminate multiple black citizens from participating in the jury. The
prosecution built their case on the testimony of pathologist Trailer,
who claimed that the bruises found on Rhodarius were indicative
of child abuse. They also used the fact that Rodrikus
was chronically unemployed and a habitual marijuana user in order

(04:34):
to paint him as an irresponsible father. The defense, however,
argued that Trailer's report was fraught with mistakes. He mistated
medical science, telling the jury that Rhoderius's brain had swelled
as a result of suffocation, which is technically impossible, though
the brain does well in cases of pneumonia. Despite strong
testimony from the defense, a jury that consisted of nine

(04:57):
white people and only three black people found Rodricus guilty
of murdering Rhoderius. He was given the death penalty and
spent years on death row. But in twenty fourteen, Crawford's
lawyers appealed the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court. They
introduced new medical evidence, including affidavits from numerous scientists, all
of which said that Rodarius was the victim of bronco pneumonia.

(05:21):
In twenty sixteen, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned Crawford's conviction,
and the following year, Crawford was formally exonerated on all charges.
And so, why was Rodricus Crawford initially found guilty and
how does his conviction and eventual exoneration reveal a troubling
eagerness to enact capital punishment.

Speaker 2 (05:45):
Joining us to talk about this complicated and tragic case
is Maurice Schima. Maurice is a staff writer for The
Marshall Project and an award winning author of Let the
Lord sort them the Rise and Fall of the Death Pennel.
He also co founded the Insider Prize contest, which is
for incarcerated writers, which is sponsored by American Short Fiction

(06:10):
as well as he is the host of an upcoming
podcast called Just Say You're Sorry. Maurice, Welcome to Facing Evil.
Thank you for being here.

Speaker 5 (06:22):
Thanks so much for having me so Maurice.

Speaker 2 (06:24):
You know, I always like to start with how did
you get to this journey? Like why are you so
passionate and especially about the death penalty.

Speaker 6 (06:34):
So shortly after I graduated from college, I was an
intern at a small nonprofit in Austin, Texas that covered
death penalty issues. But it wasn't journalism. It was an
oral history project, which meant that we were doing essentially two, three, four,
even five or six hour interviews with people who had
some connection to the death penalty or the criminal justice system.

(06:57):
More broadly, this was family members of people who had
been murdered, but also family members of people who had
been executed. And it gave me this really deep and
rich sense that one of these cases, when you see
them in the news, there's a lot of people involved,
and all of those people have really complicated interesting stories
and perspectives on what's happening. And then I realized through

(07:20):
that work that I was interested in journalism, that I
didn't want to go be a lawyer or do some
of the other things that an interest in this topic
may lead you to. And I was interested in other
things too, I was a musician. But that said, I
sort of as an intern at Publications and then as
a staff writer with their Marshall project, really fell down
this rabbit hole of capital punishment because sort of the

(07:42):
extreme version of all of these other issues in the
criminal justice system. So I'm interested in all sorts of issues,
but often a death penalty case will be the sort
of most extreme story that helps you understand or explore
those issues. So, for example, if someone is innocent and
convicted of a crime. There are many people who are

(08:02):
innocent and convicted of crimes, and the reasons for that
can be interesting to explore as a journalist, but a
death penalty case, an execution is typically going to be
the most dramatic version of the stakes of that problem.
So I think I continually returned to these cases because
it was like, through the death penalty we can see
a lot of other issues in a really complicated way,

(08:24):
and so that is sort of what brought me into
this topic, and it eventually led to the book about
the death penalty. And then I'm always looking for cases
to cover, and often not just the case itself, but
for what it can tell us about the larger criminal
justice system.

Speaker 3 (08:38):
I love that you walked into it, you know, with
one type of you know, hat on, so to speak,
but then you have all these different hats that you
wear in telling the story and it's all humanity, right, Yeah.

Speaker 6 (08:52):
And I also think another piece of it is having
grown up in Texas, which was the epicenter of the
death penalty. I have memories from being a kid and
executions being in the news.

Speaker 3 (09:04):
Maurice, can you walk us through, like what is the
history of the death penalty in this country?

Speaker 2 (09:10):
Like why is Texas the epicenter of it?

Speaker 6 (09:13):
Yeah, I'll give you the kind of like cliff note version,
because this could be a god I mean, you know,
you could go on and on. So the death penalty
has always existed in the United States. I think we
always think of it as this just feature of our
society and to some extent, but the history is actually
very messy and by messy. I mean, at different times
and places people have been very supportive of the death

(09:34):
penalty and very opposed to it, So that largely depends
on where you live. Michigan, for example, where my in
laws live, has not had the death penalty since the
eighteen fifties, and there are many other states. Hawaii, I believe,
has never had it since it's been a state.

Speaker 2 (09:51):
Yeah, I don't think we ever have. Yeah.

Speaker 6 (09:53):
We talk about it as an American phenomenon, but it's
actually just within America a very sort of complicated maps.
So like in the seventeen hundreds eighteen hundreds, you start
to have a death penalty that grows out of the
history of lynchings, so you have illegal mods of people
who are killing largely black and Latino Americans, although not exclusively,

(10:19):
and over time this kind of starts to merge with
the more legal version of the death penalty, the version
where people are actually tried in courtrooms. When I was
looking into the history, I found all of these really
terrifying and awful cases from one hundred years ago that
show how the version in the courtroom and the version

(10:40):
of the mob in the courthouse square aren't so far
apart So, for example, there was a man in Texas
who faced the death penalty and his trial was something
like four hours long, and while he was in the courtroom,
he could hear them constructing the scaffold.

Speaker 5 (10:54):
To hang him outside the courtroom.

Speaker 6 (10:56):
Oh my goodness. So that shows you that the death
penalty has always had this relationship to kind of mob justice, right,
but over time it's gotten more and more folded into law.
So by that I mean legislatures getting involved in saying
we're going to write the rules around who can get
the death penalty and who can't. And this all eventually

(11:17):
leads to a point in the early nineteen seventies that's
really kind of key for understanding the death penalty that
we have today. The Supreme Court rules in nineteen seventy
two that all death penalty laws across America violate the
Constitution and basically throws out the death penalty entirely.

Speaker 5 (11:32):
It disappears from the map.

Speaker 6 (11:34):
And then the Supreme Court says, it's it's the way
that it's being given out. It's not the death penalty itself.
So if you can rewrite your laws, you know, state legislatures,
Congress to make it kosher, go for it, and the states,
and a lot of states go and write these new
laws that make the death penalty sort of follow what

(11:55):
the Supreme Court wants. And that's really led by the South,
you know Texas where I'm from, Florida, you know, South Carolina,
also some northern states. Ohio brings it back, but across
the country the death penalty kind of returns with a force.
There's almost this like backlash where people are like, how
dare the Supreme Court stop us from having the death penalty?

Speaker 5 (12:16):
We want it more.

Speaker 3 (12:16):
Now the pendulum swings, right, It's very.

Speaker 6 (12:19):
Much a pendulum swing. So then, really the history that
I've spent a lot of my research trying to understand
is starting in the seventies. After that moment, you see
this climb where death sentences, people sentenced to death, the
size of death row executions, all of that rises and
rises throughout the eighties and nineties. It hits sort of
a peak around the year two thousand and then it's

(12:41):
been a long slow slide downward ever since.

Speaker 2 (13:04):
Okay, so let's go back to Rodriguez Crawford, who was
you know, put on death row for killing his son.
Can you tell us your initial thoughts about this particular case.

Speaker 6 (13:17):
Sure, So, just to give the quick summary, Rodriguez Crawford
was arrested for the murder of his son, who was
one years old. They were my understanding is together in
the same bed, not with the son's mother. They were
living separately and sharing, you know, custody of this kid,
and his uncle called nine one one after the child

(13:40):
was not breathing, and the police come in and pretty
quickly a pathologist medical examiner rules the cause of death
to be homicide, whereas Rodriguez Crawford's claim is I woke
up and my son wasn't breathing, And the police and
the District Attorney's office in Caddo Parish, Louisiana decide that

(14:02):
this was a murder, and they pursue the death penalty
against Crawford, and then he is sent to death row,
and on appeal, you know, his lawyers start to look
under the hood of what happened and find that well,
actually it was not a cut and dry murder like that.
The scientific evidence that you see in this medical examiner

(14:26):
report is as much an art as it is a science,
and there are actually studies that show that medical examiners
are sometimes more likely to rule it a murder if
the parent is black as opposed to if they're white.
So there's this subjective subjectivity that racial bias enters into.
And then sort of luckily for Crawford he had good

(14:48):
lawyers on appeal, it appears that he had a pretty
shoddy lawyer at the trial who didn't push back on
the state hard enough the state also, Shreveport, Louisiana, where
this was happening, is more than half black, but the
I think, only had three black jurors.

Speaker 2 (15:02):
Three out of twelve, Yeah, exactly, and.

Speaker 6 (15:04):
That was largely because the prosecutors cut every potential black
jur from the pool, so it wasn't really a jury
of his peers. And so in a lot of ways,
the racial dynamics of this kind of mirror the larger
death penalty. It also feels like no accident that this
was happening in a part of Louisiana that was known
for lynchings historically, that had a severe amount of kind

(15:26):
of racial animosity. And I recall that first learning about
this case from a New Yorker article by Rachel Leviv
maybe six seven years ago. She's one of my favorite journalists,
so I sort of was reading everything that she wrote
at the time, and I thought she did a really
good job of situating this case in the.

Speaker 5 (15:43):
History and saying, you know, yeah.

Speaker 6 (15:45):
It's no accident that Cato Parish, Shreveport, Louisiana is this
epicenter of the death penalty when you look at the
history of lynchings, and often the cities and counties that
are producing a lot of death sentences have this kind
of history.

Speaker 3 (15:59):
Wow, that was going to be my next question, which
you pretty much just answered it, because I was going
to be like, well, how common is it for, you know,
prosecutors to weave this narrative of guilt.

Speaker 5 (16:09):
So there are the.

Speaker 6 (16:09):
Cases where somebody is definitely guilty and you can have
a debate about whether they deserve the death penalty based
on you know, what we call in the legal framework mitigating.

Speaker 5 (16:17):
Factors like their childhood or their remorse or whatever.

Speaker 6 (16:22):
Then you have the cases where somebody is definitely innocent,
was a thousand miles away when this crime was committed,
or the science suggests that there wasn't a crime at all.
But a lot of times you have this ambiguous situation
where you know, Rodriguez Crawford was in his early twenties.

Speaker 3 (16:37):
I think because a baby himself.

Speaker 6 (16:39):
I remember one lawyer telling me about this case and saying,
you know, maybe he's guilty of bad parenting, maybe he
wasn't the best parent, but should you get the death
penalty for that? You know, no r like who among
us has not made mistakes as a parent. Apparently the
child had some bruises that was from falling in the
bath room the day before. You're often as you're looking
at these cases, you're sort of assessing, well, there may

(17:00):
be kind of scientific reasons why they're just actually innocent
of the crime, or there may be some guilts but
not evil intent in the way that the prosecutors are traying.
And often there's kind of a whole spectrum sort of
in between. And it really gives you a kind of
humility about the death penalty because I think we have
this idea. Certainly, I remember culturally, you know, from movies

(17:22):
and TV, getting this idea that the people who are
sentenced to death are hannibal elector right. It's the sort
of idea we have that it's a bunch of Ted
Bundye psychopath types, and the reality is that many, many,
many of them even when they're guilty of the crime,
which Ridriguez Crawford appears not to be. Even when they
are guilty, it's probably a more ambiguous, trauma filled, very

(17:44):
very tragic situation. It's not somebody who you know, wakes
up one day decides they like killing people and then
like has a glass of red wine at the end
of it, like Hannibal elector.

Speaker 4 (17:55):
You know.

Speaker 5 (17:55):
It's that that is just so far from real life.

Speaker 2 (17:58):
Got I know, I just think about you know, Rodriguez,
and it's like, I remember the prosecutors were like, well,
you know, he's living at home with his mom, he
doesn't have a job, and you know, he has some
type of thing with marijuana, you know, on his record.
And I'm like, oh, so that's why you're gonna put
this young kid on death row.

Speaker 6 (18:18):
And it's easier to sell that story when you've staffed
the jury.

Speaker 2 (18:21):
Right, let's talk about that, so we can talk about
the prosecutor, Rightdale Cox, who is beyond shady, and he
was the one, right who had the nine white jurors
and the three the three black jers. But like, how
do they do that? And is that legal? It just
seems like that is above the law to me.

Speaker 6 (18:44):
So when a jury is selected, you know, you go
into the jury room, there's maybe fifty sixty seventy people,
and each of them answer questions that the prosecutor and
the defense asks them. And one thing that I think
is increasingly the focus of people who who look into
this is that there's a Supreme Court case that says, basically,

(19:04):
it's okay to cut people from the jury if they
say they could never give the death penalty. So in theory,
this sounds right, because you know, you want a jury
of people who can who say they could give both
of the punishments that are on the table, the death
penalty or life in prison. But practically what that means
is that everybody who is opposed to the death penalty
gets cut, and so all the people that are left

(19:26):
are for the death penalty, and studies have shown that
those people are more likely to find someone guilty and convict.
And so often you see black potential jurors cut from
the pool and they don't get onto the jury because
they say they couldn't give the death penalty. And it's
a cycle where maybe they don't support the death penalty
because they've heard stories like Rodriguez Crawford's right, or their

(19:48):
loved ones have been hassled by the police, or you know,
it's all kinds of reasons they wouldn't support the death penalty.
That make a lot of sense when you think about
Black Americans today, but that ends up biasing the juries.
That's like round one, round two. Is that each side.
And this is not true of every state, but it's
true most of the country gets a certain number of

(20:09):
what are called strikes peremptory strikes peremptory just being a
fancy word for you don't have to explain it. And
for years and years and years across the country, prosecutors
were striking black jurors. And I found in my research
this astonishing basically memo guide to prosecutors out of Dallas

(20:31):
from the nineteen sixties, where the prosecutor is basically giving
his peers advice on who to cut from the jury.
And it's not just black citizens, it's also women's And
then there's all these like very like gross claims, like
people who are overweight, you should kick them off the
jury because they're more likely to be sympathetic, or there's

(20:52):
just all of these weird ideas about people. So eventually
the Supreme Court does step in and says you can't
kick people off of a jury just because they're black.
There were some really big scandals related to this, and
the Supreme Court steps in. So then what prosecutors start
doing is saying, well, I'm kicking this person off the jury.

(21:15):
They are black, but I'm kicking them off because X
and this other new reason can feel a little flimsy.
I actually found another prosecutor guide from the early two
thousands that was just like a list of all the
things you can basically say. And one that also sticks
with me is things that are they're not the race
of the person, but they imply the race of the person. So,

(21:37):
for example, did the juror agree with the OJ Simpson verdict?
So both sides ask, remember the O. J. Simpson case?
What did you think of that case? And the person
can say I thought he was guilter, I thought it
was innocent, And we all kind of know that which
way they leave.

Speaker 1 (21:54):
There was a.

Speaker 6 (21:55):
Tendency among black Americans. It was at least a stereotype
that black Americans thought he was railroaded and white Americans
thought he was guilty, And that can become a kind
of proxy for race, so that the prosecutors don't have
to say they're kicking someone off because of their race.
And so now we're in this situation where someone like
this prosecutor Deale Cox can do this and often get

(22:18):
away with it, and occasionally, when it's really egregious, the
Supreme Court will step in and say, Nope, this is
too far. But there's no real logic to which cases
they pick.

Speaker 3 (22:29):
So with everything that you just shared with us, I
would love to know, like, how does one actually overturn
a death penalty conviction with all of the as our
new friend Jason Flahm likes to call it junk science.
Is that how you overturn a death conviction or what?

Speaker 2 (22:48):
I know? It's an open ended question.

Speaker 6 (22:50):
But no, no, of course, it's one of the many
ways that a death sentence can be overturned. So someone
is sentenced to death and there is a very very
long process of appeal and I won't get into the
history because I don't really know it of how we
got the system that we have because it's so convoluted.
But there's just all of these different rounds where you

(23:11):
go to this court and then this court and some
of them are state courts and some of them are
federal courts, and pretty much every case goes to the
Supreme Court. Usually the Supreme Court says, no, we're not
going to look at it, but at least as a
matter of like process, it passes by, and usually after
their sense to death.

Speaker 5 (23:27):
They get a new defense team.

Speaker 6 (23:28):
There has definitely been a long standing since among judges
and even the public. I would say that no one
should be executed without access.

Speaker 5 (23:36):
To a lawyer, absolutely, and over.

Speaker 6 (23:38):
Time the standards for how good those lawyers kenon should
be has grown and grown and grown so where they're
often very seasoned and skilled, and typically they do a
new investigation during the appeal, and they typically find things
that become claims. And these claims could be this person's
innocent and there was junk science. And when I say

(24:00):
jump science, I mean sometimes it's like that science has
changed over time. We don't know as much. We now
know more about X than we did in the seventies
or eighties, because again time frames are so long, and
so almost always we know more by the time of
appeal about whatever science. Sometimes we knew all along that
it was bad forensic science, and it passed by anyway.

(24:21):
Sometimes the claim is around the science. Sometimes the claim
is that prosecutors did something they shouldn't have, like hid
evidence that they should have given to the defense. Sometimes
it's that they cut blacktures in a way that they
shouldn't have.

Speaker 5 (24:38):
And then a.

Speaker 6 (24:38):
Really common one is what's called ineffective assistance of counsel,
which is the term of art for the defense. Lawyers
did a bad job at the trial, and did such
a bad job that it violated this guy's constitutional right
to a lawyer. So, you know, we all have a
right to a lawyer when we go to trial. This
is like something we all know. But in death penalty

(24:59):
cases you have a right to a better level of lawyer,
you know, with more of a resume, at least in theory.
But in reality often they don't do a very good job,
and so you see on appeal this comes up. So
in Audricus Crawford's case, I remember reading that his lawyer
at the trial, you know, didn't really do a lot
of interviews with witnesses, didn't apparently do a very good

(25:22):
job of challenge challenging the forensic science.

Speaker 2 (25:24):
Not a lot of pushback, not a.

Speaker 6 (25:25):
Lot of pushback, and so that is something you see,
and sometimes it rises to the level of this violated
the guy's constitutional rights. But even when it's not that bad,
often in these appeals, the person is guilty. There's no
real question that they committed the crime. But a huge
version of this that I really could talk for hours
about is the topic of what's called mitigation evidence, which

(25:48):
is when the defense lawyer basically brings up factors that
would convince the jury to not seek it, not give
the death penalty, whether it's the childhood of the person,
the remorse they feel, the good things they've done while
in prison, the fact that they were only nineteen years old,
or whatever it is. And frequently I'm seeing more and

(26:08):
more in these cases. The claim that the lawyers on
appeal make is that at the original trial, the defense
team didn't do this research and they should have, and
the Supreme Court has broadly supported that and said that
you are entitled to this kind of investigation into your childhood.
So I think this has actually been a major reason

(26:30):
why the death penalty is disappearing, because more and more
defense teams do get that human picture and they bring
it in front of the jury. This is like the
case I described in Florida last year that I watched,
so it was subject to the sort of dynamics I've
been talking about, and yet he didn't get the death
penalty because they gave that jury this full human picture
of his life and spared him.

Speaker 2 (26:51):
But how often does that really happen?

Speaker 6 (26:54):
Not that often, I want to say. The statistic last
I checked was something like one exoneration from death row
for every nine executions.

Speaker 2 (27:06):
That breaks my heart.

Speaker 6 (27:08):
That's a lot of people. And the thing about exonerations
are those guys are lucky in the sense that they
had a defense team come in and do a good
job and convince the courts that they were innocent. But
that just implies that there's more cases we don't know about, right.
I will occasionally in my work stumble across a case
from twenty years ago that seems really really sketchy and

(27:28):
shoddy and worrisome, and the person was executed, And when
someone is executed, the system generally kind of moves on.
So if this person was innocent and was executed, or
if their constitutional rights were violated in an egregious way
to where they're guilty, but we really would wouldn't in
twenty twenty three, feel good about that execution.

Speaker 5 (27:48):
Those stories just sort of end up kind of lost
in the archive.

Speaker 2 (28:12):
Do we know how many people are on death row
at this time?

Speaker 5 (28:16):
It's around twenty five hundred.

Speaker 2 (28:19):
Wow.

Speaker 6 (28:19):
A lot of those are in states like California that
don't actually carry out executions, so those people are effectively
serving a life sentence. And then I don't have the
number of people serving a life sentence just generally though
that number is much much higher. Just to give another
sort of number sense of the situation, between ten and
twenty people are executed a year across the United States.

(28:42):
That number is much lower than it once was. The
number was in the nineties, and then a lot fewer
people are sentenced to death than used to be. I
mean when Rodriguez Crawford. An element to that case that's
worth mentioning here is that a court overruled death sentence
and then the district attorney's office was allowed basically to

(29:05):
make a choice like are we going to seek a
new death sentence for him? They were able to it
basically just wiped the death sentence clean. But then there
was still sort of the question of punishment, and so
that the district attorney could go for it again. Dale Cox,
the one who had sought that death penalty, I believe,
wasn't in the office anymore. There was a new district
attorney who said, we're not going to seek the death penalty.

(29:27):
We're just going to let I believe drop the charges.
Because eventually Rotriqus.

Speaker 2 (29:30):
Was released, right, yeah, yeah, five years.

Speaker 6 (29:33):
Often in these cases, if the person isn't innocent, if
they are guilty, the prosecutor will say, we're going to
drop the death penalty and just let you spend the
rest of your life in prison. That is a common
outcome to So when people think about what they can do,
I think the piece of advice that I also give,
regardless of your position, I mean, this is actually a

(29:54):
piece of advice if you support the death penalty too.
It's just to pay attention to who your district a
jorney is. Maybe most of us can't name that person,
but you probably live in a county, and in that
county there is probably a district attorney, and that person
is making the decision about not just whether people face
the death penalty, but also what punishments look like generally, right,

(30:18):
the district attorney has a ton of power, and there's
been a real movement in the last five to ten
years to elect district attorneys that reflect the political diversity
of this country a little more. They tended to be
more conservative than their constituents, and that is less true
today now there's more progressive district attorneys in progressive cities.

(30:40):
And so my advice to people, basically, if you're interested
in sort of thinking about what you can do vicity
the death penalty or just punishment the criminal justice system,
is to learn about the policies of your county district
attorney and whether you agree with them or not. And
if you don't, then you know, vote for someone else.

Speaker 2 (30:58):
That's great advice. Advice. Everybody should know who their district
attorney is.

Speaker 5 (31:03):
Absolutely well, I'm at it, sheriff.

Speaker 6 (31:06):
Look up your sheriff. Yeah, that's my other sort of
hobby horse is look up who your sheriff is, because
every town has a jail and there may be people
dying in that jail or being neglected or whatever, and
the sheriff is the one in charge generally, so it's
worth paying attention to who that is.

Speaker 2 (31:22):
I got to ask you, you know, I love the
title of your book. By the way, let the Lord
sort them, especially that first opening, and that seems so
apropos right to what is actually happening. I mean, do
you think that as a society we will ever get
rid of the death penalty? Because it's so split, it's
so divided, and when you talk about all these different

(31:44):
people in their stories, everybody has a different perspective, right.

Speaker 6 (31:49):
It is hard for me to imagine in America without
any death penalty at all. What I've seen is that
the numbers keep dropping, and even when news events would
seem to stir back, got public support for the death penalty. So,
for example, Donald Trump oversaw thirteen executions in his final months.

(32:11):
A couple of years ago, Oklahoma said it was going
to start executing one person every month. You don't see
a kind of bloodlust among society where a bunch of
people are like, yeah, that sounds great. I mean, there
may be people out there, There may be people who
are more likely to vote for their conservative Republican generally,
you know attorney general, but do most people follow attorney

(32:32):
general races?

Speaker 5 (32:33):
I don't know.

Speaker 6 (32:34):
So I think that it's it's lost a lot of relevance.
There's a chance that could change. You know, Trump still
talks about the death penalty. Ron de Santis, who may
run against him in twenty twenty four, is very pro
death penalty and trying to pass some bills in Florida
to make it more of a thing. But it's hard
for me to see it. But that said, I think
there will still always be these particular, egregious murders that

(32:59):
really shock people and create a kind of thirst for
the death penalty. I mean, I'm not in the business
of predicting the future, but it's easy to see the long,
slow slide down of the death penalty slowly basically disappearing,
and yet still a few kind of big symbolic cases
hanging on. One other thing I'll say is that a

(33:21):
lot of states, and I could see more of the
country going in this direction, are like California or Pennsylvania,
where they have the death penalty in name but not
in reality.

Speaker 2 (33:31):
So they don't actually enact it.

Speaker 6 (33:32):
They don't enact it so somebody can be sentenced to death,
they go to death row. I think death row in
California has like five to seven hundred people, but they
haven't executed anybody in years since and have no death
chamber anymore, so we may hold onto the idea of
the death penalty even as we kind of actually let
it go in real life.

Speaker 3 (33:49):
I love everything that you're saying, and I know, I know,
as a journalist, like you can't really not that you can't,
but I mean give your quote unquote opinion. But I
would love to know, like, do you think, personally, or
take off your journalist hat, as a podcaster or as
a human being, as a Texan, do you believe that

(34:12):
the death penalty is ever truly necessary or ethical? And
I know that's a very, you know, big question, but
I'm just curious how you feel.

Speaker 6 (34:24):
So I've spent you know, now, I guess about ten
years more than ten years, learning about this, and what
I've realized is how, in some ways I feel like
I was naive to ever think of it as a
moral question. And when I say that, what I mean
is not, of course, it's a moral question of whether
somebody should face the death penalty. But I remember when

(34:46):
I was a kid and we would say, you know,
do you support the death penalty or not? And that
was sort of the big question. In the last ten
years or so, I've come to realize that The question
isn't really does someone deserve the death penalty? It's could
we ever as society create a system that we all
could agree enacts the death penalty in a clear and
moral and just way. So, for example, could we ever

(35:10):
actually create a system as human beings that make sure
that only guilty people get the death pilty or only
the most deserving? And what is even me to be
the most deserving? And so it's in some ways it's
a question about us and whether we I know, Brian Stevenson,
the lawyer, has said, you know, it's not about do
they deserve desire? It's do we deserve to kill? And
that has really stuck with me as I've done this

(35:31):
reporting to say that it's a human system with human beings,
and I have yet to see evidence that we as
a society can pull off a death penalty system that
meets really anybody's definition of justice, much less my own,
Because even people who support the death penalty tend to
take a step back when you show them really clear
evidence of an innocent person who's been executed or almost executed,

(35:55):
or a case like Rodriguez Crawford where there's just so
much ambiguity that it's hard to feel good about that outcome,
even if even if you support the death penalty in theory.

Speaker 2 (36:07):
That's an incredible answer, Maury. Yeah, on facing evil Russia
and I were always searching for the light in the darkness.
So I'm going to present this question to you. You know,
in the Rodriguez Crawford case and the Rodarius Lot case,
where do you see the light?

Speaker 6 (36:25):
So I mean, to me, the light is that Rodriguez
Crawford walked out of prison. He's a freeman and he
can rebuild his life. And he spent years in prison
that he will never get back, years under the sentence
of death, that he will never get back. But I
have often found that people who have been through that
have a lot of wisdom to share as a result
of it. And it's of course up to him whether

(36:46):
he wants to share it. But the men that I
have met on death Row, both innocent and guilty, and
I've met a lot of them, to a man, have
had something to teach me about the sort of essence
of human nature. And even if those lessons are really dark,
you know, even if they did something horrific and they
regret it, even if they're lying to me, and I

(37:06):
feel like they're lying to me. We're learning from these
people sort of about human psychology in a way that
will in theory help us work as a society towards
less violence, less pain less crime. So I think Rodriguez Crawford,
if he wants to, could become one of these advocates
who says, you know, I've been to prison, I know
what the guys in prison are going through, and help

(37:29):
sort of humanize both his own circumstances and the circumstances
of others.

Speaker 3 (37:33):
I love that, Maurice. We cannot thank you enough for
being here on Jason Evil and we can't wait to
follow you and listen to your new podcast and all
the things.

Speaker 2 (37:46):
Thank you, Maurice, appreciate it.

Speaker 5 (37:48):
Thank you.

Speaker 3 (37:53):
Today we would like to dedicate our emul our message
of hope and healing to the family of rodri Ugus
Crawford and to the family of Lecendra Loot. They both
lost a beautiful child, young Roderius, way too soon. We
will never be able to comprehend what they went through.
And despite that heartbreak, Rodriguez persevered against all odds to

(38:18):
prove his innocence and was able to get himself off
of death row with the help of so many others.
And to all of the helpers out there who continue
to fight for the wrongfully convicted, we see you and
we thank you. Onward and upward, Emua emua.

Speaker 2 (38:42):
Well, that's our show for today.

Speaker 3 (38:44):
We'd love to hear what you thought about today's discussion
and if there's a case you'd like for us to.

Speaker 2 (38:49):
Cover, find us on social media or email us at
Facingevil pod at tenderfoot dot tv.

Speaker 3 (38:55):
And one small request if you haven't already, please find
us on night Tunes and give us a good rating
and a good review. If you like what we do,
your support is always cherished.

Speaker 2 (39:06):
Until next time, Aloha.

Speaker 1 (39:25):
Facing Evil is a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV.
The show is hosted by Russia Pacquerero and Avet Gentile.
Matt Frederick and Alex Williams our executive producers on behalf
of iHeartRadio, with producers Trevor Young and Jesse Funk, Donald
albright In Payne Lindsay our executive producers on behalf of

(39:46):
Tenderfoot TV, alongside producer Tracy Kaplan. Our researcher is Carolyn Talmadge.
Original music by makeup and vanity set. Find us on
social media or email us at Facing Evil Pod tenderfoot
dot tv. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio or Tenderfoot TV,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen

(40:09):
to your favorite shows.
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