Shreveport man on death row for murder of 1-year-old son gets new trial

Rodricus Crawford, 25 (Source: Caddo Correctional Center)
Rodricus Crawford, 25 (Source: Caddo Correctional Center)
Published: Nov. 16, 2016 at 8:52 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2016 at 1:55 AM CST
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Roderius Lott was 1 when he died. (Source: Abbie Crawford)
Roderius Lott was 1 when he died. (Source: Abbie Crawford)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Shreveport man convicted of killing his 1-year-old son and sentenced to death has been granted a new trial.

Crawford's 1-year-old son Roderius Lott was found unresponsive in a home in the 6800 block of Broadway in February 2012. The child was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Caddo coroner said an autopsy revealed that the child was smothered. The coroner also said the child had several bruises and signs of abuse.

Prosecutors said Crawford smothered the child, his defense attorneys say the child was very sick, had pneumonia and died of sepsis.

In the appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, defense attorneys argued that prosecutors excused potential jurors on the case based on race.

"He is given a presumption that he is a criminal element based on his race and socioeconomic status," explained Crawford's attorney, Cecelia Kappel. "I think the result would have been very different if he were white. I think the result would have been very different if he was middle-class African American. In this case, he was presumed to be a criminal."

Kappel adds that the prosecuting attorney used stereotypes as a reason for imposing the death penalty. Crawford admitted he smoked marijuana frequently, was unemployed, and lived with his mother.

Rodricus Crawford was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2013, but now the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an opinion Tuesday overturning the conviction.

The court was unanimous in coming to the conclusion that there was an error in this case. However, the justices have varying opinions on what the error was and how to correct it.

Abbie Crawford, Rodricus Crawford's mother spoke with KSLA News 12's Domonique Benn and told her, "Ain't now way in the world he would do anything to harm that baby because he loved his baby."

Kappel told KSLA News 12 she is very thankful that the Louisiana Supreme Court did the right thing in this case and that she looks forward to working with the District Attorney's office to seek justice.

The Caddo District Attorney's office released a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to the ruling:

In light of this opinion of the Louisiana Supreme Court, including the dissenting opinions of justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court to acquit the defendant of the charge, the Caddo Parish District Attorney will reassign the case to a new assistant district attorney for re-evaluation of case in order to make a determination of a proper course of action to proceed forward in this matter.  Since the matter is now a pending matter before the court, this office will not make any further comment at this time.

The 35-page decision by Associate Justice John L. Weimer, along with opinions by fellow associate justices that concur in part and dissent in part or in toto, can be read online at the Louisiana Supreme Court website.

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