Above the law

Tales from death row: Justice for Rodney Reed

By: Caitlin Adams

I have a bit more to say about Lisa Tanner's comments that were aired as part of Adam Racusin's KEYE Austin story on 4/25/13 (I bet none of you are surprised!). The Attorney General's office refused an interview for the recent program, so her interview was from 2001. 

In addressing a question concerning the two beer cans found near Ms. Stites's body, this is Ms. Tanner's response:

"I can't tell you that it didn't get misplaced in some fashion. I can't tell you that it didn't fall off the table. I can't tell you anything like that, but I can tell you I have every reason to believe I did provide that to the defense."

First, how can a prosecutor not know if evidence was misplaced or fell off the table? If you don't know this, are we supposed to take your word that you did provide the evidence to the defense? That doesn't work for me. How does a key piece of evidence "get misplaced"?  How does a key piece of evidence "fall off the table"?  None of the prosecution's evidence got misplaced or fell off the table--oh, that's right, they didn't have any evidence! How is it that prosecutors seem to only have exculpatory evidence for the defense and it turns up missing or isn't handed over? I feel so much anger and frustration and disappointment in response to Ms. Tanner's apparent disrespect of the enormity of the responsibility she bears to uphold justice that she displayed in this interview.

Does this sound eerily familiar to anyone else?  All I could think as I listened to Ms. Tanner cavalierly, dismissively answer the question regarding the beer can evidence that Rodney's defense team never received and subsequently was never presented at trial was, is that she sounds just like Judge Ken Anderson during his testimony at the recent court of inquiry into his role in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.  The same dodgy, "above the law" cavalier, dismissive tone and attitude.  I find this very disturbing.  A man's life is on the line, an innocent man is facing death by state sanctioned murder, and you as the prosecutor in the case answer the question, as if you were being asked what happened to a missing homework assignment, missing car keys, a missing party invitation! The question was about important, potentially exculpatory evidence in a capital murder case.  I think it would be wise if Ms. Tanner took note of the court of inquiry's findings in the Anderson case!

I understand that we have an adversarial criminal justice system. I understand that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to be a prosecutor. I also understand that the ultimate goal of our criminal justice system is JUSTICE. Not winning a case at the cost of an innocent man's life. Not setting out to win a case with the goal of advancing your professional and political aspirations.

I'm so glad I write a blog and I'm not a reporter. As a reporter I would have to be impartial and there is no way on this planet I could be impartial in presenting this!

Ms. Tanner, Mr. Penick, the state of Texas, Bastrop, and state law enforcement got it wrong.  Plain and simple!  It's time to get it right.

 Free Rodney Reed.