Glenn Ford Is Free

[Content Note: Wrongful conviction; racism.]

Glenn Ford, who has spent 30 of his 64 years on death row in Angola Prison for a crime he did not commit, is now free:
Ford was released on the order of a judge in Shreveport after Louisiana state prosecutors indicated they could no longer stand by his conviction. In late 2013 the state notified Ford's lawyers that a confidential informant had come forward with new information implicating another man who had been among four co-defendants originally charged in the case.

He was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder the previous November of Isadore Rozeman, an older white man who ran a Shreveport jewellery and watch repair shop. The defendant had worked as an odd jobs man for Rozeman. In interviews with police Ford said that he had been asked to pawn a .38 revolver and some jewellery similar to that taken from Rozeman's shop at the time of the murder by another man who was among the initial suspects.

Asked as he walked away from the prison gates about his release, Ford told WAFB-TV, "It feels good; my mind is going in all kind of directions. It feels good."

Ford said he did harbour some resentment at being wrongly jailed: "Yeah, cause I've been locked up almot 30 years for something I didn't do. I can't go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40 stuff like that."

...Ford's conviction bears all the hallmarks of the glaring inconsistencies and inadequacies of the US justice system that are repeatedly found in cases of exoneration. ...An African American, Ford was sentenced to death by a jury that had been carefully selected by prosecutors to be exclusively white.

His legal representation at trial was woefully inexperienced. The lead defence counsel was a specialist in the law relating to oil and gas exploration and had never tried a case in front of a jury; the second attorney was two years out of law school and working at the time of the trial on small automobile accident insurance cases.

At the trial the state was unable to call any eyewitnesses to the crime, nor was it able to produce a murder weapon. Instead Ford was convicted largely on the testimony of a witness who was not a detached observer – she was the girlfriend of another man initially suspected of the murder.

Under cross-examination the witness, Marvella Brown, admitted in front of the jury that she had given false testimony. "I did lie to the court… I lied about it all," she said.

In another classic element frequently found in exoneration cases, cod science provided by "expert" witnesses also helped to put Ford on death row. One such expert testified that the evidence pointed to the defendant because he was left-handed; another expert told the jury that particles of gunshot residue had been found on his hand; and a third talked about fingerprint evidence implicating him.

The testimony from all three expert witnesses was later shown to have been at best inconclusive, at worst wrong.

...Ford becomes the 144th death row inmate to be exonerated over the past four decades, underlining the perils of innocent people being sent to their deaths in America's capital punishment system.
I just don't even know what to say besides this: The death penalty should be abolished. Period.

Mr. Ford, I'm glad you are free.

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