revealnewsCh. 16: Meeting the victim in #badpleadeals by @antoinegoldet
In front of Superior Court Judge Eugene Codey, the victim, S.A., said she didn’t recognize the man who had spent more than 13 years incarcerated for raping her: Rodney Roberts.
. “I want to know, why did you confess to something that you didn’t do to me?” she asked Roberts from the stand in the courthouse in Essex County, New Jersey, in 2010. The court’s rules prevented him from answering her. Even if he could have, Roberts says, he wouldn’t have been able to find the words.
The public defender who had represented Roberts in 1996 also testified. Charles Martone was the one who had grinned at Roberts when the plea agreement came up, the one Roberts had trusted to get him the best deal possible.
Martone recalled the large backlog at the pretrial disposition court, but he didn’t remember anything about Roberts.
. “I was assigned to go through that backlog, offer plea offers that the state gave me to the individuals, advise them that this was the lowest plea offer,” he testified. “If they were guilty, they could decide to take it. If they were not, to take the case to a trial.”
His workload was overwhelming, he said, forcing him to divide his attention among up to 120 cases on any given day. But Martone said he never would have misled a client.
Retired Newark police Detective Derrick Eutsey also took the stand. He described the photo lineup he had conducted in 1996 and how the victim started crying when she saw Roberts’ mug shot, then signed the back of it.
In her testimony, S.A. said she didn’t remember having ever seen Roberts or identifying him. The signed mug shot had been lost. .
The victim was questioned about the sexual relationship she had around the time of the rape, a relationship the prosecutor’s office had decided was reason enough not to conduct a paternity test on her son four years earlier. “That was after (the rape),” S.A. said. “It wasn’t prior.”
Based on S.A.’s testimony, the judge ordered a paternity test. “If it comes back that it’s his (Roberts’) child, end of case,” the judge wrote. “If it doesn’t, then we go in another direction.”
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