Rodell Sanders spent over two decades in prison for a murder and attempt murder that he did not commit. In the early hours of a December 1993, a young man and his girlfriend were forced out of their car at gunpoint and ordered to walk down a deserted alley where they were subsequently shot. The young man died as a result of the shooting. The young woman, though she was shot twice in the head, survived and summoned help
Rodell Sanders was identified by the surviving victim in a photo line-up after his picture was trimmed to conceal both his height and weight in order to match the gunman’s description. At the same time, the police arrested another man who met the description given by the victim. Detectives claim that this suspect stated that he was a lookout for the crime and that Sanders ordered the double shooting. A year after his interrogation, the suspect wrote a letter to Sanders’ then girlfriend admitting that Sanders was not involved in the crime and that he had lied to the police. The suspect made the same admission to an investigator sent by Sanders to visit the suspect in jail. At trial, this suspect alleged that Sanders forced him to write the letter recanting his police statement.
While Sanders’ defense attorney cross-examined both the eyewitness and the alleged co-conspirator, the attorney failed to adequately question either. In the case of the alleged co-conspirator, no mention was made about this “co-conspirator’s second statement to an investigator corroborating his written recantation nor was the investigator called to testify. In 2014, Sanders was acquitted after a third trial where a jury finally heard all the evidence about the circumstances of the eyewitness identification, and the benefits witnesses received in exchange for inculpating Sanders.