Man Sues Hertz For Not Turning Over A Receipt That Would Have Cleared Him Of Murder Charges Until After He Spent Five Years In Jail
from the customer-service-0/5-stars dept
Law enforcement loves loves LOVES third parties. Anyone one step removed from someone they’re investigating generally isn’t covered by the Fourth Amendment, which means no one needs a warrant or probable cause to go fishing for “third party” data.
But when it comes to the accused, what’s easy for law enforcement is seldom simple for regular citizens. Third parties obtain tons of personal data when interacting with customers and users. But when a regular person asks for this information, third parties apparently feel free to blow them off. That’s the case when someone’s trying to do nothing more than dispute something on their credit record. And it’s also the case when someone’s life is literally on the line.
This cavalier approach to record keeping might finally cost a third party some money. A man falsely accused of murder is taking car rental agency Hertz to court for sitting on a receipt that would have cleared him for several years.
A Michigan man was convicted of second-degree murder in 2016, but he didn’t do it. Now, he’s suing the car rental agency that held onto the receipt proving his innocence.
Herbert Alford spent almost five years behind bars for the 2011 shooting death of Michael Adams before his conviction was overturned last year and he was released.
Hertz had the records that would have cleared Alford. But it didn’t hand them over until after he had already served five years for a crime he didn’t commit.
The rental records would have shown that Alford was miles away from the murder scene six minutes before the crime was committed. But Hertz took its time producing the exonerative evidence.
Alford’s lawyers repeatedly insisted that he was nowhere near the area at the time of Adams’ murder and instead was at Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, approximately 20 minutes away, renting a car from the Hertz station six minutes before the fatal shooting.
“If anybody has ever traveled Lansing from Pleasant Grove to the airport you know that is not possible to accomplish,” Alford’s lawyer, Jamie White, told WLNS. “You couldn’t even do it in a helicopter.”
Hertz got the records request in 2015. It took the company three years to produce it. Once it did, Alford was cleared of all charges. This is all Hertz has to say about its inability to keep Alford out of jail.
“While we were unable to find the historic rental record from 2011 when it was requested in 2015, we continued our good faith efforts to locate it,” spokeswoman Lauren Luster told the Associated Press. “With advances in data search in the years following, we were able to locate the rental record in 2018 and promptly provided it.”
Whatever. If it had meant as much to Hertz as it meant to Alford, the records would have been found much earlier. The problem is it didn’t mean much to Hertz. So, it took its time locating records requested by a man facing decades in prison, resulting in him losing a half-decade of his life to the penal system. For Hertz, it’s nothing but a very minor PR black eye — one unlikely to deter renters who have yet to be falsely accused of committing crimes.
But for Hertz renters, records like these matter, even if they have yet to discover how much they matter. A subpoena for records shouldn’t be thrown on the back burner, whether it’s issued by a law enforcement agency or someone they’re trying to prosecute.
But there’s more ugliness to this case if Alford’s allegations are true. It’s more than a missing receipt. It’s the deliberate inducement of false testimony by investigators.
Police said that a police informant, Jessie Bridges, reported that he saw the shooting and identified the gunman as 38-year-old Herbert Alford. Bridges would later recant his statement and claimed that police had offered him $1,500 to falsely implicate Alford.
So, that’s another lawsuit waiting to happen. Maybe this didn’t actually happen, but it’s not so far removed from reality it’s immediately dismissible. Let’s not forget law enforcement thinks criminals who work for them are inherently trustworthy and everyone accused of a crime is inherently dishonest. But sometimes it takes a bit more — shall we call it “legwork” — to get informants to agree with the established narrative. And when some coaxing is required to seal a prosecutorial deal, the “good” criminals tend to be enriched. That’s what happens when the criminal justice system is more concerned with scoring wins than upholding justice.