And just like that, another Death Row Exoneree comes our way. Enter Glenn Ford. His case has all the earmarks that we have become accustomed to in these situations. He has been on death row for about 30 years. He hasn't seen sunlight for the last seven. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers (you know, 12 white people). His trial lawyers were extremely inexperienced. It all comes down to the same thing. Again, his case is unique in its own way however. He was the longest serving death row prisoner to be exonerated.
The Case Against
Glenn Ford was originally brought to the attention of police in the murder of Isadore Rozeman, for whom Ford did occasional yard work, because he had been seen in the area near the scene of the murder that day. He told the police that a man named 'OB' had given him some jewelry to pawn and this put him in the detective's sights. He suggested one possible suspect for the crime as Jake Robinson and said he thought that 'OB' might be Robinson's brother. He was not charged however until three months later when he was charged along with the Robinson's after Jake's girlfriend implicated all three to the police, adding that Ford was in possession of a firearm on the day of the murder.
The expert testimony against Glenn consisted of the parish coroner who had NOT examined the body personally, but managed to testify under oath as to the time of death and that the shooter was left-handed; an expert who claimed to have found particles "unique to or charactertistic of" gunshot residue on Ford's hands; and a police officer NOT certified as a fingerprint expert who concluded a 'whorl' pattern on Ford's fingerprints matched a single print lifted from a bag at the crime scene
No murder weapon. No eyewitnesses. Primary witness against Ford was at best 'unreliable'.
The (Kangaroo Court) Trial
To lead the charge, Glenn's trial lawyers were horribly inexperienced, and thus, completely ineffective. His lead attorney specialized in oil and gas and had tried neither a criminal nor civil case before a jury before. The second attorney, even less capable of helping someone facing the death penalty, was two years out of law school and working slip-and-fall cases for an insurance defense firm prior to this. Both lawyers were selected alphabetically by the local bar association.
The prosecution's primary attack was the girlfriend, Brown, who ON THE STAND admitted that the police had helped her concoct her story, and that she had made it up. This was the story that led to Ford's arrest. They then relied on their 'expert' witnesses, whose testimony might have easily been refuted had the defense even tried to bring some expert witnesses of their own. But the defense lawyers were so inexperienced they didn't even know the protocol for issuing a subpoena out of state.
The (all white) jury convicted Glenn Ford in less than three hours.
As it is in most capital cases, the appellate history of the case is tortuous. All through the years, in both explicit and implicit ways, the Louisiana appellate courts expressed their unease with the results of Ford's trial. But no court, ever, reversed the conviction and sentence against him and ordered a new trial. This is so even though the first court to review the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court itself, concluded it had "serious questions" about the result. -Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row
Hindsight is 20/20
Ford's case had so many glaring inconsistencies and holes in the plot line that hearings were twice ordered to evaluate his claims of an unfair trial; once for his claims of race bias in jury selection, and once for his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecution's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence. In both cases (first the Louisiana courts and then the trial courts, respectively) the decisions backed up the prosecutors and gave no credit to Glenn's very legitimate claims.
It was this ruling, in October 2009, that perhaps best illustrates the farce this case was. Yes, a Louisiana judge conceded, Ford would have been benefited from having those California witnesses testify for him during the mitigation phase of his trial. Yes, he would have benefited had his lawyers hired their own experts. But none of this constituted "ineffective assistance." The Louisiana Supreme Court, in a two-word order, accepted this dreadful interpretation of law. - Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row
The Open Door
Court records show that in 2013 a confidential informant told prosecutors that Jake Robinson had admitted to shooting and killing Rozeman. Prosecutors then filed a motion to vacate Ford's conviction and sentence, citing 'credible information' that they had received in regards to the actual killer and the fact that Ford had no part in the murder on any level.
We can't even pretend to imagine what someone like Glenn Ford has been through. Thirty years in prison, facing the death penalty. You talk about against all odds. Glenn Ford has showed us that the truth does come out. Our prayers are with him as he re-enters society as a free man. Good luck, Glenn.
Sources and Links
Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row
Death Row Inmate Glenn Ford Released 30 Years After Wrongful Conviction
Prosecutors to Vacate Murder Conviction, Death Sentence of Glenn Ford
Article written by Mike Palmer
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