By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Did then Mobile County Stephen Nodine murder his girl friend, Angel Downs, or did Ms. Downs kill herself?
That question has been the subject of many heated conversations in South Alabama ever since that fateful day.
The saga of Stephen Nodine, a former County Commissioner from Mobile, Alabama and Palm Beach County, Florida, will be the subject of a Discovery Channel program on Wednesday at 9:00 pm Central Standard Time.
The subject of grand juries has become a major topic nationally with the finding that Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, did not commit a crime when he gunned down robbery suspect Michael Brown. In the Wilson case, the Grand Jury was shown all the evidence. Prosecutors showed the Grand Jury witnesses and forensic evidence that would be helpful to the defense as well as potential prosecution witnesses and evidence. This was a radical departure from the norm, including the Nodine case. Forensic evidence and evidence from Angel Downs past suicide attempt was never shown to the grand jury. Only evidence that supported the prosecution was presented to that grand jury.
Nodine said in a statement, “The Grand Jury system is flawed in many states and out of control political prosecutions like mine have become the norm in the legal system today.” Nodine said that the charges leveled at Gov. Rick Perry, Micheal Morton from Texas and Ryan Ferguson of Missouri as cases that have brought light on rogue prosecutors intent on prosecuting the innocent.
Jurors are not supposed to convict someone if there is a “reasonable” doubt as to the accused’s guilt; but should prosecutors prosecute when they “know” that there is reasonable doubt? That is the question that is being asked about both the Wilson and Nodine cases.
Investigation Discovery will air a docudrama titled “The End of the Affair” which was inspired by the movie “Gone Girl” starring Ben Affleck.
The story of Nodine’s prosecution was also featured on CBS’s 48 Hours: “Power and Passion.”
Commissioner Nodine was a rising star in Alabama politics until tragedy struck and his girlfriend, Angel Downs, was killed by a gunshot.
The initial investigator and the coroner’s initial thought was that Ms. Downs had killed herself. Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb however rejected that view in favor of the theory that Nodine murdered her. Newcomb rushed that theory directly to a grand jury who indicted Nodine for murder just 15 days after Downs death.
The coroner’s initial report, Down’s well documented 2006 suicide attempt, and statements by investigators supporting the suicide theory were never shown to the grand jury.
Nodine told the Alabama Political Reporter, “It was surreal to go through that. You can indict a ham sandwich.”
The trial ended in a hung jury. Nodine was however convicted on a federal charge of being in possession of (legally permitted) firearms while using illegal drugs because he tested positive for marijuana. Nodine said he might have been the second person to be convicted of that rarely prosecuted charge.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) appointed David Whetstone to take over the case after the first trial ended in a hung jury on the most serious charges.
Before his second murder trial, Nodine pled guilty to harassment and perjury for making an incorrect statement on a financial filing requesting legal aid. In exchange for Nodine pleading guilty to anything the state dropped the murder charge with prejudice.
Nodine said of his plea deal, “Sometimes you have to take what you can get.”
Nodine later told the Alabama media group, “If not for the brave investigators and law enforcement personnel that have come forward, (since my October 24, 2012 sentencing), to shine the light of my wrongful prosecutions. I would still be rotting in prison.” Nodine served almost two years on the perjury charge.
Stephen Nodine remains fiercely critical of the justice system which he says is broken, “I don’t wish it on anybody…The system has become so political. There are no checks and balances on them (prosecutors).” Commissioner Nodine said that the two investigators who believed in his innocence weren’t allowed to testify.
Former Com. Nodine believes that if Downs had not died that he would have eventually run for Congressman Bonner’s First Congressional District seat once Bonner retired.
Nodine said that if the Republican Party wants to win Black and Hispanic voters they need to back a stronger criminal expungment bill and offer redemption after you make mistakes to people convicted of crimes.
Nodine said that he can’t run for a state office, can’t vote, and has lost his Second Amendment rights even though his prosecution has been, “Exposed as a wrongful prosecution.”
“Did I have moral problems? Yes. Did I have a girlfriend? Yes.”
Nodine said that personal failings and mistakes should matter less than, “Are you working your ass off for the people?”