In an unacceptable miscarriage of justice, an innocent man was convicted and sentenced to death. Yet 30 years later, and two years after being released from prison, he is still denied justice — even in death.
Glenn Ford walked out of prison on March 11, 2014 after spending almost three decades on Louisiana’s death row, only to die of lung cancer just a year later. He had sought reimbursement under the state edict that would have provided him up to $330,000 for wrongful imprisonment.
Yet even after death, he was not treated fairly, after an appeals court ruled Wednesday that Ford is not eligible for the wrongful-conviction compensation.
"We find no manifest error in the trial judge's conclusion that Ford failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he did not commit any crime based upon the facts used in his conviction,” the Second Circuit Court of Appeal said in a 22-page document that supports the ruling by Caddo District Court Judge Katherine Dorroh.
The state opposed reimbursing Ford because even though he was not guilty of murder, he was still heavily involved in the events surrounding the murder of Isadore Rozeman. The jeweler was killed during a botched robbery in 1983, and the court alleges Ford had helped the actual murderer acquire a gun and pawn stolen jewelry.
Yet a statement from his prosecutor, Marty Stroud, claims too late that the system was stacked against the black man, beginning from him getting a attorney who had never practiced criminal defense. Additionally, Stroud acknowledged the absence of physical evidence linking Ford to the crime and that police pressured the main witness to falsify her testimony. Not to mention, there were no African-Americans in the jury panel, a characteristic that can often stack up against black defendants.
“At the time of the case, we excluded African Americans because we — I felt that they would not consider a death penalty where you had a black defendant and a white victim,” said Stroud. “I was the person that made the final call on the case with respect to jurors. And I was — I was wrong.”
Ford’s dying wish was to provide for his grandchildren and the compensation would have gone into their trust fund to cover educational costs and “provide rewards for academic achievement.”
The criminal justice system has often made scapegoats of people who have no means to defend themselves. Bronx woman Candie Hailey was unfairly imprisoned for almost three years, two of which she spent in solitary confinement, when she was wrongfully charged of attempted murder on a baby. Then she was tried for petty misconduct during her incarceration.
Last week, state Rep Cedric B. Glover filed a proposal to ensure Louisiana’s law to compensate the wrongly convicted would apply to Ford as well. The bill, titled HB 1116, adjusts the current law by clarifying the definition of “factual innocence.” If approved, it could pave the way to reimbursement to Ford.