The lawsuit claims that Hertz ignored two subpoenas and three court orders demanding they turn over the receipt. Alford’s lawyer explained to ABC News that Alford was trying to get that receipt the entire time, before and during his wrongful arrest, charging, and conviction. The entire time, the process was exactly as frustrating and unbelievable as you might expect. “At no point in time did they ever respond,” White told ABC News. “We were left to wonder why that was the case. … Why that was, folks can speculate. … I suspect that they don’t respond to most litigation this way. I think they saw an African American man charged with homicide and chose that it wasn’t worth their time.”
In 2018, Hertz finally produced the receipt and a judge finally granted Alford a new trial. Prosecutors then dismissed the charges in 2020, releasing Alford from this nightmare. Chief assistant prosecutor in Ingham County Michael S. Cheltenham, told The New York Times that “the Hertz evidence was a substantial factor in our decision not to re-try Mr. Alford.”
In an emailed statement to the Times, Hertz spokesperson Lauren Luster wrote: “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. With advances in data search in the years following, we were able to locate the rental record in 2018 and promptly provided it.”
Hertz released a statement saying the lawsuit is mischaracterizing what happened: “We were in communication with Mr. White well prior to 2018 and let him know we could not locate the rental agreement given the length of time that had elapsed. With advances in data search in the years following, we were able to locate another record associated with the rental in 2018 and promptly provided it.”
But Alford’s lawyer is not moved by this explanation, telling ABC “I think it’s an important point: We were not asking them to mine millions of documents over the years that were unrelated to this incident and unrelated to someone they had done business with. This was their customer. He spent money with them. And I think our requests were quite simple and I think those requests of the court were quite simple.”
Beyond this very clear piece of information, there is the dubious history of Alford’s connection to the murder in the first place. According to MSN, Alford was first connected to the murder of Adams in a most dubious fashion.
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.
I’m guessing that Alford will be filing a second lawsuit soon, this time against the Lansing Police department. Asked about how it felt sitting in prison, waiting and waiting on Hertz to produce the proof he knew existed, Alford told ABC News’ Linsey Davis “It was like a nightmare. It was surreal. I was like I know this can’t be happening when I know they got the receipt, and they know I was there.” And while this was happening, Alford wasn’t the only person who lost time. “Being away from my family and my kids; I got an 11-year-old that I was missing field trips with and going to school concerts and plays — it was unbelievable.”
Hertz is going through bankruptcy reorganization right now and Alford’s lawyer says it is likely this will slow down the legal process for his client.
March 24, 2021, 2:46 pm Pacific Standard: This story has been updated to add one additional set of quotes from a Hertz spokesperson giving their timeline of events.