By: Sam Johnson, St. Mary’s University, School of Law Intern
After maintaining his innocence for 30 years, Glenn Ford is on the cusp of being released from death row in Louisiana. In 1984, Ford, a young African American man in Shreveport, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the murder of Isadore Rozeman, an elderly white man for whom he did yard work. Months after he had originally been brought in for questioning and cooperated, he was arrested based on the statement of the girlfriend of one of his alleged accomplices. Despite the lack of physical evidence, other eyewitnesses, and the fact that she recanted at trial telling the court, “I made it all up,” the prosecution continued to pursue charges using flawed evidence that went unchallenged.
At trial Ford’s public defenders emanated ineptitude at every step of the way. They had little experience as criminal defense attorneys, and zero experience with murder trials. The lead attorney had never tried a jury case. They failed to challenge evidence from a coroner who did not even perform the autopsy. They also did not call any expert witnesses for the defense.
More troubling than the ineptitude of his attorneys, the prosecution unconstitutionally eliminated every single African American from the jury pool, even though African Americans make up over 50% of Shreveport’s population. One of the reasons given for eliminating African Americans from the jury pool was that the potential African American juror made the prosecutor uneasy. When taken up on appeal, the racial bias was ignored.
Through the perseverance of his appellate attorneys, new testimony, and evidence that was not part of his original trial, Glenn Ford will be released shortly after the prosecution agreed to vacate his conviction and sentence. Unfortunately the faulty, biased, and unconstitutional process that allowed him to be convicted and sentenced to death remains untouched by the court’s order in this case. Glenn Ford joins the list of 144 death row inmates exonerated in the US. Almost 10% of these exonerations have occurred in Texas (12) and it will take a continuing effort to save these innocent men and women in time.
For an in-depth look, read The Atlantic.