EXCLUSIVE: Rodricus Crawford talks about his journey from Death - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

EXCLUSIVE: Rodricus Crawford talks about his journey from Death Row to freedom

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

He was arrested, tried and convicted of killing his year-old son.

At age 23, Rodricus Crawford then was sentenced to Death Row at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

He and his post-conviction attorneys fought for his freedom.

Now, after five years on Death Row, Crawford is a free man.

And he sits down with KSLA News 12's Domonique Benn for his first television interview and talks about the fight to prove his innocence. 

He also talked about how he lived a real-life nightmare, life on the Tier.

I am seeing people that been here 30 years got sentenced.  I seen a man sign a death certificate and I am innocent.  Seeing that right there.  Reading paperwork, this man saying I should die a slow and painful death for something I didn't do.

For the first time, the Death Row exoneree watched the special that KSLA News 12 aired in November 2015. He still was on Death Row at that time. 

When asked if it ever crossed his mind that he would be put to death, he responded, Yeah, I was thought I was gone die.  I am on Death Row on the Tier. I thought I was going to die."

In November 2015, KSLA News 12 uncovered the 911 calls and dash cam video from the day Roderius Lott died. That evidence never was presented at trial. 

Now the actions that day all seem unbelievable to him. 

On the 911 calls, you can hear chaos, crying and confusion moments after year-old Roderius was found unresponsive.

Crawford, once charged with first-degree murder, always has maintained his innocence.

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Dr. James Traylor was the pathologist who ruled the baby's death a homicide.

When asked to comment on the autopsy, Traylor directed inquiries to the court records from the trial, which stated his autopsy findings. 

According to the autopsy report, Traylor determined smothering to be the cause of the child’s death, as evidenced by a small cut under the baby's top lip.

Defense attorneys argued that the injury came from a fall, not a crime.

Crawford says this is what happened that day,

He fell out the tub. I was taking him a bath. I set him right here, and I ran in to get a bath towel to dry him off. That's how he fell. Me, not paying attention, got on the phone and I heard him cry. His Mom came right down there and seen the bruises. That's how she knew where the bruises was.

Using tissue and blood samples, defense attorneys argued that the real cause of the child's death was his failing health.

Crawford questions the coroners report.

If the coroner would have followed what he was supposed to do, he would have knew about the bruises. How old, when they did it. He didn't do none of that That's the question we need to be asking him.

Cecelia Kappel, the attorney who was assigned Crawford’s case after his death sentence, found nine doctors from throughout the country who dispute Traylors findings. All agree the child died of sepsis.

 If I were him, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing he put an innocent man on Death Row and he could have very well been executed for that,” Kappel said of Traylor.

“I hope he re-examines the work that he did on this case. And I hope he can admit that he made a mistake.”

In November, newly discovered evidence prompted the Louisiana Supreme Court to vacate Crawfords sentence and order a new trial.

At the time, Caddo Assistant District Attorney Tommy Johnson tried to prove his case was first-degree murder.

No evidence was produced at trial showing Crawford ever abused his son.

Instead, defense attorneys argued that the cards were stacked against their client from the beginning because of his race and the facts that he was unemployed and still lived at home with this mother.

Crawford said he was interviewed five or six times. I talked to them people and told them everything I knew.

“They tried to make me say I did something. I told them I am not going to say I did something and I didn't do it,” he continued.

“That was my first son. Every time I see my friends with their son, I think about my son. Every time, every day. That was my child. Why would I kill something I had?

Prosecutors have decided against retrying Crawford in connection with his son's death.

Even so, he said, his time on Death Row continues to haunt him.

And he says he has forgiven the man who put him there, then-prosecutor Dale Cox.

But Crawford said he cannot seem to move past not receiving an apology from the state.

They still ain't told me ‘I'm sorry.’ They still saying I did something. Can you believe that? Now how am I supposed to feel inside?

Crawford's attorneys are getting ready to ask for compensation.

According to Louisiana law, if approved, he would get $25,000 for each year of incarceration. That amount is capped at $250,000.

Another $80,000 is for loss of life opportunities.

In order to win compensation, exonerees have to be factually innocent.

And the Caddo district attorney's office says they did not find Crawford innocent.  

Although the district attorney has opted not to retry Crawford on the charge of first-degree murder, he thinks a reasonable prosecution could be pursued on a charge of criminal negligent homicide.

And that negligence could extend to other family members.

Even if Crawford were to be successfully prosecuted on that charge, the length of time he has spent in jail is close to the maximum sentence of five years if he was to be convicted.

KSLA News 12 again reached out to Traylor, the forensic pathologist in this case.

LSU Health spokeswoman Lisa Babin released this statement: Dr. Traylor declined to comment on allegations made by Rodricus Crawford.

Also, KSLA News 12 has been unable to reach Cox, who then was prosecuting attorney, for comment.

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