Archive for June 20th, 2012


prindle trial recap: day 1

The first day of James Prindle’s trial in Memphis was a draw, says Stephen Sydebotham, the Redemption Project’s on-site advocate.

The trial got off to a late start. The media reported that some lame-brain e-mailed a Facebook blurb in support of James to a member of the jury. What actually happened is that the juror notified the judge that she knew a man from a Cordova church who was in the courtroom in support of James. The juror was excused and replaced with an alternate.

Jury demographics: 10 women, 2 men. 7 whites, 4 blacks, 1 Hispanic. No young adults, 11 middle-aged people, 1 older adult. We originally heard the jury would likely be sequestered, but apparently it is not.

First of all, regarding that Facebook news report. I checked with the reporter and she assured me a Facebook message was an element leading up to the dismissal of a juror who knew a partisan in the courtroom audience. The way the story was reported could give people ideas about how to disrupt the process and take it to a mistrial.  So if you happen to know somebody on this jury (or even just someone who knows someone), please don’t try to influence this jury. James has been waiting almost two years for his day in court, and we cannot let him down now. We need to give this trial every chance to succeed.

We must trust in the wisdom and goodwill of our fellow-citizens who have been seated on the jury. They are not like members of Congress. They do not need to be lobbied to know what’s right. They are more like you and me.

Do you realize what a rare thing this is for the case of an indigent child to go to jury trial? The vast majority of cases like James’ are settled with threats, arm-twisting, and the signing of a plea agreement. If it weren’t for your support, this wouldn’t be happening.

The local Fox station reported that we’d “virtually adopted” James. I’m glad they got that right. We have adopted James for life. Wither he goes, we will follow as a loyal and attentive parent might.

James is being charged with four counts:

(1)  Aggravated rape of a child with forcible penetration;

(2)  Aggravated child abuse, arising from the fact that the child appears to have been forcibly held down and possibly shaken;

(3)  Child neglect and endangerment; and

(4)  Making a false report to police.

The most-reported incident from today’s court session was James’ reaction to seeing his mother Monica Sanders take the stand. He cried. The other day he said to Steven that he’d “never let my mom hurt me again,” but the wounds from her abandonment are obviously still raw. The prosecution used Monica’s testimony to identify the authorship of two drawings taken into evidence while James was in juvenile detention. James says he drew this as a joke when he was coping with the bullying and razzing he received from other inmates who were calling him a baby rapist. They show a baby in various stages of injury and bandaging.

James lost his composure to an even greater degree when photographs of Neily Shea’s injuries were shown. (This was the test Claiborne used to determine James’ guilt or innocence.) James loves his baby sister and is horrified by what someone did to her on that chaotic afternoon and evening of August 16, 2010. He’s ashamed this happened on his watch, when safeguarding his siblings’ welfare was his responsibility. He screwed up that one. But he didn’t assault her. James is embarrassed that he doesn’t even know who did.

Jefferson Sanders tried a very sly thing while he was on the stand. He claimed James flashed him a smile from the back of a police cruiser the night of the incident. Claiborne took Sanders to task, asking Sanders if he’d ever shared that information with the police or anyone else before today. “I don’t remember,” Sanders hedged. James flatly denies he would have ever done such a thing. The cross-examination became emotional, and Sanders started shouting angrily at Claiborne. The judge afterwards instructed the jury that they could not give Sanders’ story any weight in their deliberations.

The prosecution called several of the kids to the stand who were present in the apartment that evening, as well as a couple of their parents. Their testimony confirmed that it was a fairly chaotic scene, and that people were coming and going. The most interesting parts of this testimony were the long beats of silence in Adam Matthews’ testimony when he hesitated before answering that he ‘didn’t remember’ if James, Noah, and Terrell left the apartment, and before answering an almost inaudible ‘yes’ when asked if he’d been left alone in the apartment, after all, with Neily Shea and Hunter.

I’ve left out a lot of details Stephen shared with me, but I will report them later as they become relevant to subsequent testimony.

The most important thing is that James is doing well. He is handling himself admirably. At the end of the day he confided to Stephen, “It was easier today than I thought it was going to be.”


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Gregory Isaacs performing “Judge and Jury”


Happy Summer Solstice!

The time of the Solstice is 6:09 pm central time tonight.


The Prison Phone Justice campaign is partnering with the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry on a national call-in day TODAY.

Why not observe the Solstice by joining them and placing a call today?

1) Call the FCC  today, Wednesday June 20th, from 8am-5:30pm EST. Dial 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).  You will need to press 4 and then press 0 to speak to an agent.  Tell them you are calling as part of “Right to Call Home” Campaign.

2) Here’s a script: It’s costing me pennies to call you, but it would be cheaper to call Singapore on a cell phone than to call someone in prison.  Please end this practice.  Grant the Wright petition in docket 96-128 and adopt final rules by Thanksgiving, so everyone can communicate with the ones they love.