Prosecutor’s Confession: ‘I Put A Man On Death Row Who Didn’t Belong There’ (VIDEO)

How many police, court officials complicit in 330 wrongful convictions of  prisoners like Glenn ford?

It’s been the buzz around office water coolers for the past three days. Glenn Ford, a name few people heard of or recognized prior to Sunday’s 60 Minutes [10/11/2015]. Now his name is familiar to millions, because what was done to him at the hands of the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office in Shreveport, LA, ranks among the most horrific miscarriages of justice to come to light in decades.

It was November 5, 1983. Isadore Rozeman, 56, a well-respected local jeweler was found lying in a pool of blood in his Stoner Hill jewelry shop. He had been shot to death and his store robbed.

Police quickly honed in on Glenn Ford as their primary suspect. Ford, a known petty thief, had previously worked on Rozeman’s yard, and later admitted pawning some of the murder victim’s stolen jewelry. Subsequently, Ford was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a trial date set for the following year.

As it turned out, this was the first death penalty case for the 32-year-old lead prosecutor, Marty Stroud. On top of that, Glenn Ford’s inexperienced court-appointed attorneys had never worked a death penalty case before. In fact, one had never even tried a criminal case.

Justice on the cheap

According to The National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan’s Law School, “One of the lawyers who specialized in oil and gas law, had never tried a case to a jury – either civil or criminal – and the extent of his prior criminal work, was handling two guilty pleas. The other lawyer was out of law school less than two years and was working at an insurance firm handling personal injury cases. Both said they were unaware they could seek court funding for defense experts and didn’t hire any because they couldn’t afford to pay out of their own pockets.”

Despite the fact that the evidence against Ford was circumstantial, Stroud was so convinced he had his man, that by his own acknowledgment, he flatly ignored other possible leads that pointed away from the defendant and toward other persons of interest.

And so it came to be that on Dec. 5, 1984, after deliberating less than three hours, an all-white jury found Glenn Ford guilty of the murder of Isadore Rozeman and sentenced him to death.

Marty Stroud celebrated with colleagues the night of Ford’s conviction. “I had drinks. I slapped people on the back. We sang songs. That was utterly disgusting,” he recounted to 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker. Today, he says he feels nothing but remorse for his behavior.

Anatomy of a miscarriage of justice

For the next 30 years, Glen Ford languished on Death Row in Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison, a maximum security prison long known for being one of the harshest in the nation. There he would spend nearly 24 hours a day in solitary confinement in a 5 x 7-foot cell with temperatures often exceeding 104 degrees.

In 2000, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a hearing on a post-conviction petition for a new trial filed by the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana. The hearing was held in 2004.

Expert testimony quickly poked holes in the prosecutors’ case from gunshot residue collected a day after the crime occurred, to misidentified fingerprint evidence, to police reports that were never shared with the defense as part of Discovery.

According to the University of Michigan’s exoneration project, “Other police reports showed that some detectives had falsely testified at Ford’s trial about statements Ford made during his interrogation – testimony that the prosecution should have realized was false.” Still other police reports “that were withheld from the defense,” contained contradictory statements made by key witnesses. Despite all of the evidence of wrongdoing and incompetence on the part of the local prosecutor’s office, the post-conviction motion was denied.

Then in 2012, Ford’s fortunes took a turn for the better. Jake Robinson, one of the original suspects in the Rozeman murder case, divulged to a police informant that he had shot and killed Rozeman 30 years earlier.

On March 2014, a judge threw out Ford’s convictions and all charges related to him. Incredibly, Robinson, who is now serving time in prison on another murder conviction, is believed to have committed several more murders since 1983. It begs the questions: How many more lives might have been saved, had Robinson been taken more seriously as a suspect back in 1983?

Breaking prosecutors’ Code of Silence

In an act that can only be compared to breaking the ‘Blue Code of Silence’ deployed by police, Marty Stroud has come clean about his role in railroading an innocent man to Death Row.

According to the 60 Minutes segment, “Stroud’s case wasn’t strong. There was no physical evidence linking Ford to the crime,” and the key witness later admitted on the stand that “she’d been coerced by police to make up her testimony.”

Perhaps most damning of all was Stroud’s admission of how commonplace it was for “prosecutors to use their jury challenges to eliminate prospective jurors who were black, to ensure an all-white jury is impaneled.”

“At the time of the case, we excluded African-Americans,” said Stroud, “because we – I felt that they would not consider a death penalty where you had a black defendant and a white victim.”

Asked his reaction to the fact that Glenn Ford’s legal team were inexperienced criminal trial lawyers with no training or experience in death penalty cases, Stroud stated, “at the time I saw nothing wrong with that,” adding that he even “snickered from time to time,” thinking what a ‘slam-dunk’ case this was. “I was arrogant, narcissistic … caught up in the culture of winning,” he now admits.

If Marty Stroud’s statements are disturbing, wait until you see acting Caddo Parish District Attorney Dale Cox’s comments – they’re downright chilling.

Here’s the video with the 15-minute segment from “60 Minutes” on Glenn Ford’s wrongful conviction (story continues below):

 

K. Chandler has spent the past 30+ years as a journalist writing for newspapers in Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida, writing on diverse topics including the criminal justice system, education, science, politics, health, the environment, and more. She has had numerous scoops in her distinguished career, and had many articles picked up by the nationwide press. She has had her work featured in a University syllabus, and even had her work featured during Super Bowl XLIX. Excerpts of her work have been included in several books, and she is the author of 2 upcoming books herself.