Dr. Theodore Tapper helped a 17-year-old named CJ Rice who had been shot in the abdomen in September 2011 overcome the long-term effects of those wounds. Six days after the shootings in South Philadelphia that injured four people, Rice was apprehended and eventually convicted of attempted murder.
CNN presenter Jake Tapper has investigated the conviction of his father’s patient, Ray Rice, publishing a story that raises serious issues about the evidence against Rice and the efficacy of the legal representation he received at trial, over a decade after the trial.
‘Good luck, Mr. Rice’: A Philadelphia adolescent and the hollow promise of the Sixth Amendment, Tapper’s cover story for The Atlantic, delves deeply into the events leading up to Rice’s conviction and 30-to-60-year jail term for a shooting that occurred in September 2011. As stated in the Sixth Amendment, defendants have the right to legal representation.
Tapper’s father, a physician in South Philadelphia for more than four decades, told him about the case. The elder doctor is 82 years old. Less than three weeks after being shot, when Theodore Tapper met Rice to treat his bullet wounds and a large incision on his belly, the youngster was still in excruciating agony, his wound was still stapled together, and he had problems walking.
Jake Tapper writes about his father, a doctor, and how he feels it is “physically impossible” that Rice was involved in the act for which he was convicted.
Tapper points out many issues with the evidence against Rice that go beyond his physical condition. One of these issues is an eyewitness who modified her statement to specifically name Rice after first not being able to identify anybody. Neither a weapon nor any other tangible evidence linking Rice to the crime site was ever found.
But the most egregious issues Tapper brings up concern Rice’s court-appointed defense attorney, Sandjai Weaver, who did not take statements from Rice’s alibi witnesses before trial, did not subpoena cell phone location data that could have cleared her client, and did not raise doubts about the eyewitness’ inconsistencies. Unfortunately, Weaver passed away three years ago.
Tapper, speaking on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday, said of the defense counsel, “She was a bad attorney — really fundamental things that should have come out in trial did not come out in trial.” The fundamentals of the matter were lost on her. That’s what we have for legal counsel in the United States. The way our system is set up, that’s OK.
The most unfair case like this I have ever seen,” Tapper said. CJ’s situation is not unprecedented, which is why it is so noteworthy. This is a case involving a person without financial resources who has been assigned a lawyer by the court.
According to CNN’s interview with Theodore Tapper, he has been writing to Rice often since 2016, when Tapper’s ex-patient requested his complete medical records as part of his appeal. When asked what topics they cover in their letters, he stated anything from the dire socioeconomic issues plaguing neighborhoods like South Philadelphia to the newest information on the city’s professional sports teams.
I can be a touch obsessive,” Theodore Tapper said. And I’ve been captivated with the CJ Rice narrative since at least 2016, when he asked me to attempt to get his medical documents, or even as far back as 2011, when he was originally incarcerated. I sent him a letter, and we’ve been in touch ever since.
After being “obsessed” with Rice’s tale, the senior Tapper discussed it with his son and close group of friends. Everyone there could see that I was worried. “Jacob is a multi-talented individual,” Theodore Tapper said. And with that, he scratched his head, murmured, “Hmm,” and began paying attention to what I was saying and looking into it more on his own.
It was a shooting with no apparent motive.
Rice was shot while riding his bike on September 20, 2011, and less than three weeks later, on September 20, 2011, he was treated by Theodore Tapper for what he considered to be a case of mistaken identification. Jake Tapper reports that despite Rice’s acute discomfort, he refused to take pain medication because of how it made him feel.
Five days after the checkup, four persons, including a six-year-old child, were shot on a stoop in South Philadelphia; all four survived with non-fatal wounds. Two of the wounded ladies said that two or three Black guys wearing hoodies opened fire on them.
Even though no one was able to positively identify the shooters the night of the incident, police said they got a tip from a confidential source the next day pointing the finger of blame at Rice. Investigators took images of Rice with them to the hospital for a photo lineup. To prevent improper suggestion, the Philadelphia Police Department altered its rules in 2014 so that detectives working on cases would no longer be allowed to present the lineups.