A Black man from Michigan is seeking financial compensation from the rental company Hertz, which he has accused of failing to produce a receipt in a timely manner that would have proven he had nothing to do with a murder he was convicted of.
According to CBS News, the lawsuit was filed Tuesday by 47-year-old Herbert Alford who was convicted of murder in 2016 and was exonerated last year in Ingham County. In 2015, a receipt was requested from Hertz that proved Alford was nowhere near the scene when the killing reportedly happened in 2011. That receipt wasn’t produced until 2018.
“There is no question that [Alford] would have avoided going to prison had they produced this documentation,” Jamie White, an attorney who represents Alford told CBS affiliate WLNS-TV.
Here’s what happened as reported by CBS:
Alford was convicted of second-degree murder in 2016 in the shooting death of Michael Adams, White said.
The Hertz receipt showed Alford was renting a car at a Lansing-area airport around the time that Adams was shot, White said. He was killed in a Lansing neighborhood 20 minutes away from the airport.
WLNS reports that prosecutors said that Alford’s cell phone records showed he was driving to the airport in the moments after the shooting, but that evidence was never introduced in the case.
The conviction was thrown out and charges were finally dropped in 2020, after Alford had served nearly five years in prison and jail.
So, there are a lot of questions to be asked here.
First, why were Alford’s cell phone records not introduced in a case that would decide if a man was to be convicted of murder? How did Alford become a suspect in the first place if he was renting a car 20 minutes away from where the shooting happened? And, of course, why the hell did it take three years for Hertz to produce a simple receipt?
The New York Times reports that Adams was shot to death in Lansing in October 2011, during a drug-related dispute, according to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. Alford was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but in 2018, the conviction was appealed and eventually thrown out after Hertz finally got its shit together and produced the receipt that cleared Alford.
Hertz’s excuse appears to be that it didn’t have the technology in 2015 to find a receipt from just four years prior in its records.
“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 said in a statement Wednesday, CBS reports. “With advances in data search in the years following, we were able to locate the rental record in 2018 and promptly provided it.”
According to the Lansing State Journal, Ingham County prosecutor Carol A. Siemon said the new evidence provided by Hertz—which is going through a bankruptcy reorganization that White said may slow Alford’s case against it—was a factor in her office’s decision to drop charges against Alford as well as its decision not to prosecute him again.
“We do not believe that we can prove Mr. Alford’s legal culpability by the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard,” Siemon said in December. “Therefore, the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office is dismissing the case against Herbert Alford.”
Of course, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael S. Cheltenham said that police and prosecutors “have never said that the Hertz timestamp document conclusively proves that someone other than Mr. Alford shot Michael Adams,” and that the case remains open.