Critiques of the Judiciary
Compassion, Louisiana Style The State is denying Glenn Ford full compensation for the nearly 30 years he spent
in Louisiana's Angola Penitentiary for a crime he didn't commit
Louisiana's Revised Statue 15:572.8 provides for payment of $25,000 a year for wrongful incarceration, not to exceed $250,000. It also provides for up to $80,000 to exonerated inmates for loss of life opportunities. Although state prosecutors were intent on convicting Glenn Ford for a murder he did not commit, and dismissed evidence that pointed to the actual killers, the state now claims that Ford is not entitled to be fully compensated for the time he wrongfully spent on death row because of his subsequent involvement in the case. He had accepted items taken from the robbery and pawned them for cash he needed for living expenses. Thus, according to the state, Ford is not blameless because he participated in events connected with the murder and robbery. Nevertheless, Ford was wrongfully indicted, convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Shreveport jeweler, Isadore Rozeman, and it is to that issue alone that compensation should be granted. Following the Louisiana's denial of compensation, The Times of Shreveport published an editorial proclaiming its support to fully compensate Glenn Ford. That editorial touched the heart of the lead prosecutor responsible for Ford's conviction, A.M. "Marty" Stroud III of Shreveport, who responded to it with a surprisingly candid confession and apology. Just 15 months after he was exonerated, Ford died of lung cancer, a disease that was neither diagnosed nor treated while at Angola.
La. fights pay for man wrongfully convicted of murderVICKIE WELBORNFebruary 28, 2015
An all-white jury convicted Glenn Ford, a black man, on Dec. 5, 1984, for the
Nov. 5, 1983, shooting death of Isadore Rozeman, a 56-year-old Shreveport jeweler who was robbed and killed in his Stoner Hill shop.
Three other men brothers Jake Robinson and Henry Robinson and George Starks were arrested with Ford, but charges against them were later dismissed even though Ford repeatedly denied his involvement and fingered the Robinsons as the killers.
Ford failed to gain the ear of appellate courts over the years as he fought for his freedom. The tide turned in 2013 when the Caddo DA's office filed motions in federal court indicating a confidential informant questioned in an unrelated homicide identified Jake Robinson as the triggerman, not Ford.
In the past 11 months as Ford has enjoyed his freedom, it's Jake Robinson's time to sit behind bars. Jake Robinson was arrested in May in connection with the 2004 murder of Bruce Cotton, and he was charged in December as a principal to Claudell Staten's 1988 murder. He's a suspect in four other homicides, according to a sheriff's cold case investigator.
And in January, Henry Robinson was arrested in Las Vegas on a Caddo Parish warrant for principal to second-degree murder in Staten's death. His and Jack Robinson's cousin, Will Rogers Robinson, also is charged with Staten's death. Neither has been charged in Rozeman's death.
"Karma. That goes around," Ford said Friday after learning of the Robinsons' arrests.
His attorney, Kristen Wenstrom, cites those arrests in her motion supporting Ford's compensation request. Ford told Shreveport police at the time of his arrest the Robinson brothers had a reputation for violence and were responsible for the crime.
"In a painfully ironic twist, the state is now using this same information to try to deny Mr. Ford compensation for the 30 years he wrongfully spent on death row for the Robinsons' crime," Wenstrom wrote in a motion filed Jan. 29. She further asserted if the state had used the information provided by Ford "then these violent brothers would be behind bars, at least four murders would have been prevented and Mr. Ford would not have suffered" on death row.
"Instead, the state is now using this information against Mr. Ford to once again deny him justice."
Ford does not meet the statutory requirements of the state's compensation law because he committed at least two crimes based on the same set of facts used in his original conviction: illegal possession of stolen things and accessory to an armed robbery, wrote Assistant Attorney General Colin Clark in a motion opposing Ford's request for funds.
The DA's office has stated in court filings that the evidence it gathered in 2010 showed Ford was not present nor did he participate in Rozeman's murder and armed robbery. Specially, Clark said Ford took items stolen from Rozeman and pawned them within hours of his murder. By selling them, it makes him an accessory, and during his trial, Ford's defense attorneys even referred to their client as a "hapless fence who pawned stolen items without knowledge of the murder," Clark added.
Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott said by law the Attorney General's office takes the lead in compensation cases. Asked if he shared the AG's opinion about Ford, Scott responded, "The attorney general has stated our position."
Louisiana Revised Statue 15:572.8 enacted in 2005 sets forth the two requirements for an inmate to receive compensation for a wrongful conviction. The first is that the conviction of the petitioner be reversed or vacated. The second is the petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that they are factually innocent of the crime for which they were convicted, according to Steven Hartmann, public information officer for the attorney general's office.
"While we do not break down wrongful compensation petitions by those that were opposed or unopposed in our system, there have been many petitions that we did not oppose. Forty-one individuals have applied for compensation since the statute was signed into law. Of those 41 individuals, six have been denied. Twenty-six individuals have been ordered compensation and nine individuals, including Glenn Ford, have pending cases," Hartmann said.
The statute provides for payment of $25,000 a year for wrongful incarceration, not to exceed $250,000, which represents a 10-year cap on awards. The money is to be paid over a 10-year span. It also provides for up to $80,000 to exonerated inmates for loss of life opportunities.
"No one would trade the prime years of their lives for that amount of money," Wenstrom said.
Before 2005, there was no compensation statute in Louisiana. It's been tweaked some since. When it was first passed, the payment was set at $15,000 per year and capped at $150,000 with $40,000 for loss of life, Wenstrom said.
The increase was a good move, but to put it into perspective Louisiana still lags behind, Wenstrom said. "Ours is the second worse," she said, noting neighboring Mississippi pays $50,000 a year and Texas $80,000 a year with no cap.
The law is designed to pay only those who come to court with "clean hands who were blameless for the events that led to their eventual incarceration. According to Clark, Glenn Ford is not blameless. He participated in the events that led to his incarceration.
The compensation statute does not bar petitioners if they in any way contributed to their conviction. To suggest Ford is to blame for his incarceration is "preposterous," Wenstrom responded.
It was the state, she said, that disregarded direct evidence of the Robinsons' guilt, including ignoring numerous anonymous calls implicating the brothers. Wenstrom also countered that there was no evidence to prove Ford knew the items he pawned were stolen. He sold the items given to him, using his own name at a place known to him as a means to get money to pay his landlord, not aid in a robbery.Copyright 2015, www.shreveporttimes.com
From: Vickie Welborn, "La. fights pay for man wrongfully convicted of murder," The Times, Shreveport, La., February 25, 2015. http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/local/2015/02/25/glenn-ford-compensation-louisiana-new-orleans-murder-caddo-parish-isadore-rozeman-jake-robinson/24039067/, accessed 05/16/2015. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C.
§ 107for a non-profit educational purpose.
Editorial: State should give Ford real justiceTIMES EDITORIAL BOARDMarch 8, 2015
The state of Louisiana is giving former death row inmate Glenn Ford a raw deal ... again.
The first time apparently happened Dec. 5, 1984, when Ford was wrongly convicted and sentenced in the Nov. 5, 1983, shooting death of Isadore Rozeman, a 56-year-old Shreveport jeweler. Ford, who has always maintained his innocence in the killing, was finally allowed to go free from death row at Angola on March 11, 2014 [see video], after the Caddo district attorney's office asked a Caddo district judge to vacate his conviction and sentence. The action came in the wake of information about the real Rozeman triggerman being secured during an unrelated homicide investigation in 2013.
Now, the state is saying Ford is not entitled to benefit from the law that allows wrongfully convicted individuals to receive compensation for their time behind bars. There is specific criteria that must be met before there is a payout, and the Louisiana attorney general's office says Ford should not receive the compensation because he cannot prove he is factually innocent.
Hogwash. To us, it sounds like the state is playing a game of semantics. The basic fact remains the state wrongly convicted Ford of this crime and then sentenced him to die, apparently on evidence that could not withstand the revelations from that 2013 investigation. No matter how you dress it, in the end the state was wrong in Ford's case. Ford should have never been convicted much less sentenced to die, and Ford now should be compensated for having lost 30 years of his life. It's simple, and it's right.
Thus far in the case, the state attorney general's office has filed a motion opposing Ford's request for $105,000, representing the first payout of a possible $330,00 compensation package outlined by state law for wrongfully convicted individuals meeting statutory requirements.
Ford's attorney Kristen Wenstrom, of the Innocence Project in New Orleans, points out it was the state's disregard of evidence in the first place that resulted in Ford's death sentence.
A ruling on Ford's compensation request was deferred during a Feb. 5 hearing before Caddo Parish District Judge Katherine Dorroh. A ruling was expected within 30 days but had not happened as of Friday.
And even if the ruling is in favor of Ford, an appeal is likely which would further delay the compensation due Ford.
Of course, the real tragic issue here is that Ford doesn't have time for such delays because he now finds himself sitting on another kind of death row. He has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and on Feb. 23 doctors told him he is only expected to live for four to eight more months.
Ford, who is 65, realizes the possibility of getting the money before he succumbs to his cancer is slim, but would like to explore the possibility of passing the compensation onto his family if he's not alive to receive it. Not only should that be allowed, but it seems the state should be obligated in seeing to it. After all, it was their incorrect actions that took him away from his family for the last 30 years.
"I want to leave everything to my grandkids," Ford told The Times in a recent interview at his New Orleans home.
We don't understand why the state is fighting this matter so hard. Certainly, Louisiana stole 30 years of Ford's life that he'll never regain, and $330,000 seems like a small amount to at least give this man and his family a small indication that we are sorry this was allowed to happen to them.
Obviously, our justice system failed to get the right man in this instance. Now, Louisiana should do the right thing and compensate Ford for what was done to him in the name of Louisiana justice ... and it should be put on the fast track.
That would be real justice in this case.Copyright 2015, www.shreveporttimes.com
"All he wanted is justice," mourning friends say of exonerated death row inmate Glenn FordKEN DALEYJune 30, 2015
Glenn Ford, who survived the anguish of nearly three decades in solitary confinement for a murder he didn't commit, died early Monday (June 29). After a final night surrounded by friends, Ford succumbed to the cancer his supporters said spread unchecked during his wrongful incarceration.
"We had previously planned a get-together for Sunday," said Andrea Armstrong, one of Ford's caretakers from a volunteer group calling itself Team Glenn. "We sat with him and played music and sang a little bit and prayed over him, and then he left us at about 2 o'clock in the morning.
"It was a beautiful day, and we're really glad he's free from pain now. Because that was a constant struggle: How to live as full a life as his spirit wanted to, with the immense amount of pain that he had in his last months."
Ford, 65, enjoyed only 15 months of freedom in the last 32 years of his life. He was arrested in 1983 in connection with the murder of Shreveport jewelry store owner Isadore Rozeman and convicted of the killing in December 1984 by a jury that did not receive possibly exculpatory evidence.
Two months later, Ford was sentenced to death and began a stay on Angola's death row that would span 29 years, three months and 5 days. It wasn't until March 2014 that the state of Louisiana, citing still-unspecified "credible evidence" corroborating Ford's contention that he was neither present nor involved in Rozeman's death, filed a motion to vacate his conviction.
Ford was set free on March 11, 2014, and told TV station WAFB outside the prison gates that he did harbor some resentment.
"Yeah, 'cause I've been locked up almost 30 years for something I didn't do," Ford told the station's reporter.
Nearly a year later, one of the former Caddo Parish prosecutors who helped convict Ford sent a regret-filled letter to the Shreveport Times. A.M. Stroud III wrote that he had "contributed to the miscarriage of justice," partly because as a young prosecutor in 1984 he was "arrogant ... I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning."
Stroud concluded his letter by writing, "I end with the hope that Providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford. But, I am also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it."
Ford's life on the outside did not prove much easier. Within 40 days of being set free, he was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, which quickly progressed to a terminal stage. And before he was paid a nickel of compensation for wrongful incarceration state law would allow a maximum of $250,000, plus up to $80,000 more for lost "life opportunities" Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office filed a petition to deny the claim.
Ford might not have been guilty of murder, the state argued, but neither did he meet the compensation law's requirement of being "factually innocent." The provision requires petitioners to have not committed the crime for which they were originally convicted, as well as "any crime based upon the same set of facts" used in the original conviction.
First Judicial District Court Judge Katherine Clark Dorroh sided with the state, ruling that case evidence proved Ford was aware of a plan to rob Rozeman, failed to stop it, and later sold items stolen during the robbery. In addition, the judge said, Ford tried to help sell the murder weapon and hindered the investigation by initially misidentifying the suspect he later accused of Rozeman's murder.
Three months before his death, Ford filed two federal lawsuits, each seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. One lawsuit targeted Caddo Parish prosecutors and Shreveport city and police officials for contributing to his wrongful imprisonment by manipulating, fabricating and withholding evidence to win his prosecution.The other suit named Angola prison officials and five prison doctors for shoddy or neglectful medical treatment during his incarceration.
"Had the cancer been treated by defendants while Ford was at Angola, it may have been able to be forced back into remission or otherwise managed," the lawsuit said.
Efforts to obtain comment on Ford's death from Caldwell's office were unsuccessful. But Ford's supporters said Monday the lawsuits will go on, seeking now to win compensation for his estate to help provide for Ford's several children and grandchildren. Friends said the disappointment and stress brought by the state's opposition to compensating him for his lost years took a toll on Ford.
"He was hurt. It was a hurting thing," said John Thompson, executive director of Resurrection After Exoneration, a program aimed at assisting wrongfully convicted inmates upon their release.
"This man spent all this time because of a crime he didn't do, only to get the shock of his life that he's dying only 30 or 40 days after he was home. It's like, 'Oh, you thought you was off death row, but you're not. You're still here.' ... How would you feel?"
Armstrong said Ford tried to remain optimistic, if not about his own future, then at least that his expected justice would be delivered.
"I think he was a fighter and, up until the very end, was trying to live his life as full as possible," Armstrong said. "But I think he had regrets. He wished he could have provided more for his family. And the compensation denial prevented him from doing that.
"He was facing forward and was really hopeful that the state of Louisiana would be held accountable for what they did to him, because maybe in that way he can finally provide for his family."
Thompson said Ford also was driven to share his story, as often as his failing health would allow.
"Knowing he was dying, he still went to do speaking engagements to college students, just trying to make sure this don't happen to someone else," Thompson said. "That's the kind of man he was.
"He did tons of speaking engagements, when he could, before he got weak. Even when he got weak, he was still trying to go out and do them because he wanted his story to mean something. He wanted his life to have a meaning."
Now that his life has ended, Thompson said, the last thing Ford would want is sympathy.
"Everybody has a reason and purpose in life," Thompson said. "I believe his was a unique one that's hard for us to understand. But when you go back and look at the meaning of it, and look at how many lives he touched ...
"He don't want no sympathy. All he wanted is justice."Copyright 2015, NOLA.com
From: Ken Daley, "'All he wanted is justice,' mourning friends say of exonerated death row inmate Glenn Ford," NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 30, 2015, http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/06/all_he_wanted_is_justice_mourn.html, accessed 06/30/2015. Jonathan Bullington contributed to this report. Ken Daley can be reached at email@example.com. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C.
§ 107for a non-profit educational purpose.
- Glenn Ford is released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he had spent 26 years on death row for a murder he did not commit.
- The lead prosecutor who wrongfully indicted Glenn Ford for murder acknowledges his wrongdoing.
- "Qualified Immunity: Striking the Balance for Prosecutor Accountability," Center for Prosecutor Integrity, 2014.
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