Someone must have slandered Josef K., because without doing anything wrong, he was arrested one morning. Thus begins the famous Process by Franz Kafka: it also begins like this, and fortunately ends only with five years in the cell by mistake, the Kafkaesque court case of Herbert Alford, 38 anni at the time of alleged murder committed in 2011, 47 years old today. There is no cash compensation that is enough for such an affair, his lawyer Jamie White said: Alford sued the Hertz car rental company because the ultimate proof, which would have spared him five years in prison, was a rental receipt that the company has never been able to provide.
A police informant (whom he later retracted) had slandered Herbert Alford and referred to him as a murderer; the investigators had crossed his tip with those of some eyewitnesses of the shooting in Lansing, Michigan, in a shopping mall parking lot. It was October 18, 2011: a 23-year-old, Michael Adams, was hit in the back by a bullet in broad daylight, at 3 pm The investigations would then reconstruct the motive: a dispute over 22 kilos of stolen marijuana. Eyewitnesses take the license plate: the car is a 2002 Durango, made out to a certain Willene Pentecost, and the murderer a black man with short braids. The identikit seemed to point to Herbert Alford, former partner of Willene and then untraceable.
The case was dismissed as unsolved; a turning point in the investigation in 2015 included the (possibly bought) testimony of the son of Willene Pentecost, and in May 2015 Herbert Alford was arrested for premeditated murder and illegal possession of a firearm. The prosecution asked for a sentence of 30 to 60 years of imprisonment for him.
Alford had no alibi: he kept claiming that at the time of the crime he was at Lansing airport, where he was picking up a rental car at the counter of the multinational Hertz. The airport 20 minutes by car from the crime scene; the rental was registered at 3 pm, the shooting had taken place five minutes earlier. But Hertz never provided a receipt. N never responded to five orders issued by the judge throughout the trial. Herbert Alford ended up in prison for 5 years.
Sorry, the company writes now. We were unable to find the 2011 rental log when asked in 2015. We only succeeded in 2018, with new software. An explanation that seems paradoxical, in the middle of the digital age. Not that he was asking for six years of receipts, his lawyer commented. I think they saw a black man in legal trouble and decided not to waste time.
In 2018, the defense asked to reopen the case, finally bringing the receipt to court; the attorney admits the proof and declares that certainly, in possession of this receipt, the court would not have sentenced Alford three years ago. In February 2021 he is released on bail; the judge has now dropped all charges, exonerating him completely. Now Alford is demanding justice; or at least compensation.
March 12, 2021 (change March 12, 2021 | 21:29)