Man suing Hertz over receipt corroborating murder alibi says being innocent and imprisoned was 'surreal'

ANTHONY RIVAS
·4 min read

A Michigan man who is suing the Hertz car rental company for failing to produce a receipt that would corroborate his alibi in connection to a 2011 murder said it's "surreal" that he had to spend nearly five years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.

Herbert Alford, 47, was convicted in 2016 of second-degree murder and two weapons charges in connection the murder of 23-year-old Michael Adams in Lansing, Michigan. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison.

"It was a nightmare. It was surreal. This couldn't be happening ... I knew they got the receipt and they knew I was there," Alford told ABC News's Linsey Davis.

In 2018, Hertz finally provided the receipt proving that Alford was renting a car at a Lansing-area airport when the murder occurred in October 2011.

Alford's conviction was overturned and his charges were dropped last year.

He said he always hoped the truth would one day come out.

"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," he said.

PHOTO: Herbert Alford, photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, at the White Law office in Okemos, Michigan. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via USAToday Network)
PHOTO: Herbert Alford, photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, at the White Law office in Okemos, Michigan. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via USAToday Network)

The lawsuit, filed last week in circuit court in Ingham County, Michigan, says that Alford would not have spent time incarcerated "had the defendants not ignored and disobeyed numerous court orders requiring them to produce the documentation that eventually free [sic] Mr. Alford."

Hertz was first subpoenaed to produce the receipt in June 2015, according to the lawsuit. Alford's attorney, Jaime White, said "there were multiple requests" for the documentation by both him and the court between 2016 and 2018, when it was finally provided.

"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 a statement to ABC News regarding the lawsuit, Hertz said “the characterizations being alleged are simply untrue.”

“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,” they said.

PHOTO: A copy of a Herbert Alford's Hertz rental car receipt. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via USAToday Network)
PHOTO: A copy of a Herbert Alford's Hertz rental car receipt. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via USAToday Network)

Hertz also said “any claim that race or social economic status had any bearing on our response or its timeliness” was false. “We take all requests for information pertaining to legal cases seriously. Furthermore, Hertz never solicits information about someone’s race or ethnicity.”

The company said it was "deeply saddened" to learn about Alford's experience.

"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," the statement said. "With advances in data search in the years following, we were able to locate the rental record in 2018 and promptly provided it."

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White said it is "reprehensible" that the company "would not respond" to the court orders when his client's "life was at stake."

"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," he said. "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."

PHOTO: Herbert Alford, left, fist bumps attorney Jamie White on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, at the White Law office in Okemos, Michigan. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via USAToday Network)
PHOTO: Herbert Alford, left, fist bumps attorney Jamie White on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, at the White Law office in Okemos, Michigan. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via USAToday Network)

Alford, in the lawsuit, is seeking unspecified monetary compensation, but the case may get held up by the car rental company's bankruptcy reorganization, according to the Associated Press.

Alford said that since leaving prison, he's been spending time with his family and trying to get back into the workforce. Beyond financial compensation, he hopes the lawsuit delivers a broader message as well.

"I just want people to feel like they could trust the people they deal with," he said. "It makes me feel like the only time they care about their customers is when they're spending their money with them, because every time I came down there to rent a car, all the paperwork and everything was in order, but now when I need some paperwork to prove my innocence, now all of a sudden everything is not in order and it's hard to come up with."

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with an additional statement from Hertz.

ABC News' Jason Kuang and Lauren Pearle contributed to this report.

Man suing Hertz over receipt corroborating murder alibi says being innocent and imprisoned was 'surreal' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com