After spending 30 years on Louisiana’s death row for a crime he did not commit, Glenn Ford was exonerated and walked free on Tuesday, March 11. Mr. Ford was one of the country’s longest serving death row inmates, and his case exemplifies why, if we speed up the appeals process, we increase the likelihood that an innocent person will be executed.
Glenn Ford maintained his innocence all along; however, his trial was riddled with errors which set his fate in motion:
- He was represented by two attorneys chosen from an alphabetical listing of the local bar association. One attorney was an oil and gas lawyer that had never worked civil or capital cases. The second attorney was an insurance defense lawyer who had received her law license less than two years prior and had never participated in a jury trial before;
- His attorneys did not hire experts because they were under the impression that they would have to pay for the experts themselves;
- The prosecutors withheld key evidence and hired faulty forensic “experts” who misled jurors about the facts of the case;
- Despite the fact that the main witness tying Mr. Ford to the crime recanted her own testimony on the stand in front of the jury, an all-white jury found him guilty of killing Isadore Rozeman in 1982.
Finally, in 2013, a year after his final habeas petition had been filed, the State notified Mr. Ford’s counsel that a confidential informant for the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office stated that Jake Robinson told him that he—not Mr. Ford—shot and killed Isadore Rozeman. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ford filed a motion requesting that the federal court hold his habeas proceedings in abeyance to enable him to return to state court to exhaust claims related to this new evidence. Last week, both the State and Mr. Ford’s counsel filed motions to vacate his conviction and sentence. On Monday, March 10, 2014, the state district court signed an order for his release. On March 11th he walked free.
Mr. Ford’s case undermines the credibility of our capital punishment system. While Glenn Ford walked out of Angola prison with his life, nothing can turn back the clock and replace those 30 lost years. How many more Glenn Fords are sitting on death rows around the country? To date 144 people have been fully exonerated of all charges and released from death row. Said another way for about every 10 people we have executed since 1976, one person has been found innocent. How much more proof do we need that the system is imbued with flaws and failures and that innocent people’s lives hang in the balance? How many more innocent people on death row do we need to discover before we are willing to end the death penalty?