Death Penalty

Ex-prosecutor Apologizes to Exonerated Man He Put on Death Row

"I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself."


In a letter of stunning candor that should give pause to proponents of the death penalty, former Caddo Parish prosecutor A.M. "Marty" Stroud III responded to a Shreveport Times editorial calling on the state of Louisiana to stop fighting Glenn Ford's efforts to collect the $330,000 compensation package he is owed for serving more than 30 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Exonerated, but not "factually innocent."

According to the Times, Ford "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." Though Ford was exonerated, the state claims he is not entitled to compensation because he can't prove he is "factually innocent."

This led Shroud, whose prosecutorial reliance on "junk science" in 1984 landed Ford on death row, to write:

"Glenn Ford should be completely compensated to every extent possible because of the flaws of a system that effectively destroyed his life. The audacity of the state's effort to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered in the name of Louisiana justice is appalling."

Shroud makes very clear that he believes the state's semantic argument that Ford does not meet its requirements for compensation is absurd:

Pursuant to the review and investigation of cold homicide cases, investigators uncovered evidence that exonerated Mr. Ford. Indeed, this evidence was so strong that had it been disclosed during of the investigation there would not have been sufficient evidence to even arrest Mr. Ford!

And yet, despite this grave injustice, the state does not accept any responsibility for the damage suffered by one of its citizens. The bureaucratic response appears to be that nobody did anything intentionally wrong, thus the state has no responsibility. This is nonsensical. Explain that position to Mr. Ford and his family. Facts are stubborn things, they do not go away.

Later, Shroud attempts to make penance for how he conducted himself during the course of the investigation and trial:

In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie "And Justice for All," "Winning became everything."

Had I been more inquisitive, perhaps the evidence would have come to light years ago. But I wasn't, and my inaction contributed to the miscarriage of justice in this matter. Based on what we had, I was confident that the right man was being prosecuted and I was not going to commit resources to investigate what I considered to be bogus claims that we had the wrong man.

My mindset was wrong and blinded me to my purpose of seeking justice, rather than obtaining a conviction of a person who I believed to be guilty. I did not hide evidence, I simply did not seriously consider that sufficient information may have been out there that could have led to a different conclusion. And that omission is on me.

Shroud concludes with a repudiation of capital punishment itself:

No one should be given the ability to impose a sentence of death in any criminal proceeding. We are simply incapable of devising a system that can fairly and impartially impose a sentence of death because we are all fallible human beings.

The clear reality is that the death penalty is an anathema to any society that purports to call itself civilized. It is an abomination that continues to scar the fibers of this society and it will continue to do so until this barbaric penalty is outlawed. Until then, we will live in a land that condones state assisted revenge and that is not justice in any form or fashion.

Go here for more Reason coverage on the death penalty, and be sure to check out my documentary on "The Battle for Death Penalty Transparency" below.

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  1. So let me get this straight…..corrupt prosecutor doesn’t seek justice and helps get innocent man sent to death row. Man is freed nearly 30 years later and corrupt prosecutor bravely demands that state give the victim of HIS actions $330,000, of which his contribution will be exactly $0.00.

    Let’s all stand up and give this prick a standing ovation? Nah. Somebody ought to hand him a tanto and explain honor and seppuku at the same time.

    1. What makes you think he was corrupt? I don’t see evidence of anything other than arrogance.

      1. He was corrupt because he didn’t follow his duties to find justice. His refusal to seek it out when there were many plausible scenarios that did not include the victim of his prosecution make him corrupt.

        1. “Corrupt” doesn’t mean what you seem to think that it means.

          1. He didn’t intentionally do anything wrong…

          2. Corrupt has multiple meanings, and bribery is not the only one. I myself consider our system of justice corrupted in just about every aspect. I do not know enough about this particular case to have an opinion on whether the prosecutor was corrupt in any sense, but the system certainly was (and is).

            1. I agree with Scarecrow Repair. A system can be corrupt in that it promotes perverse incentives leading to horrifying results, like a man thrown into prison for 30 years when he committed no crime.

    2. Or he can indenture himself to the guy’s family for the same length of time he was incarcerated.

    3. I share your anger, but this shows how effed up our system is that it’s a big deal that he’s showing remorse, rather than saying the guy should’ve been executed or whatever nonsense you usually hear in cases like this.

      1. Pish. When prosecutors that willfully evaded their responsibility stand up and apologize when they don’t enjoy immunity, I’ll think its a big deal. Until then, its just an asshole trying to clear his conscience with the tax money of others.

        1. My point is that at least he has some conscience. It’s really bad–read what they usually say when guys are let loose.

        2. And I think he should be severely punished, of course.

          1. Since punishment is never going to happen, I will settle for the prosecutor’s mea culpa.

            As you say, he could just have kept silent.

            Others have pointed out the incentives for prosecutors are wrong (‘more convictions = advancement.) That is a flaw that has been built into the system ever since the ‘tough on crime’ mania got started. I don’t know if Stroud was elected or appointed, but the voters likely either elected him or the person who appointed him based on that ‘toughness’.

            The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.

          2. Here’s the problem. What percentage of criminal defendants invoke the “it wasn’t me, it was some other dude” defense? Not 100%, but probably north of 70%. Of that say 70%, some will certainly be telling the truth; most, however, are full of shit. Given that, it would be impossible to devote unlimited resources chasing down likely bogus claims. So long as the prosecutor didn’t ignore exculpatory evidence, and the evidence he had supported the prosecution and conviction, he shouldn’t be personally liable. Hindsight is always 20/20.

            The solution is that, if the state cannot fairly prosecute people based on current laws, they need to start eliminating a bunch until they can.

          3. Prosecutorial immunity.

            Now you may say there should be no immunity, with which I agree. However, being a smart ass, I will argue that he still should not be punished if what he did wasn’t illegal when he did it. Only once the law has been changed to make what he did illegal can people who do what he did (after it’s been made illegal) be justly punished for it.

    4. Well, maybe $0.25. He probably does still pay taxes.

  2. So, Marty, you’re gonna hand in you bar license, right? And since you are the prick that put him there, part of that $300k, is going to come out of your pay check, right?

    1. Slow down… when we use the words “responsibility” and “accountability”, we mean them in a much more… abstract sense. Ie: Insurance will cover it.

  3. Though Ford was exonerated, the state claims he is not entitled to compensation because he can’t prove he is “factually innocent.”

    Paging Dr. Kafka, Dr. Kafka to the white courtesy phone.

    Fifth Amendment, motherfuckers. He was deprived of his liberty in a miscarriage of due process.

  4. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.

    Oh look, he just admitted what we know to be true about so very many prosecutors. What a surprise. So glad he figured it out. Way too late to help anyone, of course. That’s a shocker too.

    1. I’ll give him credit for candor and honesty and admitting his egregious flaws it in public. That’s more than 99.9% of the power-hungry scum in public office have ever done.

      He should still do a lot more than that to do what can be done to compensate this man.

      1. The problem is that apologies like this are just as easy as a person claiming they want to help starving children in Africa…by talking about it. It’s a seemingly decent thing to do, except that it’s in reaction to something unbelievably terrible that they did and can never, ever actually make up for it. And here they are “apologizing” with words, no actions, and expected to be treated as if they’ve actually corrected the injustice they caused.

        I’m sorry, but narcissistic arrogant scum like this don’t change very much. This guy is just figuring out how to get in front of the issue. Until he actually does something that isn’t effortless for him, he can go fuck himself.

        1. This reminds me of Sally Struthers.

          1. Just like your mom!

          2. I can’t hear that name without thinking of her in that episode of South Park.

            1. That’s what I was alluding to.

  5. My mindset was wrong and blinded me to my purpose of seeking justice, rather than obtaining a conviction of a person who I believed to be guilty. I did not hide evidence, I simply did not seriously consider that sufficient information may have been out there that could have led to a different conclusion. And that omission is on me.

    I’ll give him what little credit he is due: Most prosecutors wouldn’t even concede this much. The culture of prosecution in America is to assume guilt then reinforce that assumption the deeper you go into the prosecution.

    But then, with the system of incentives given to prosecutors, freedom from liability, freedom from oversight by the state bar, convictions = advancement, is it really surprising that they behave the way they do?

  6. “I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself.”

    The word tautology comes to mind.

  7. It’s refreshing for a DA to admit that he played a roll in the conviction of an innocent person. It sounds so much better than former judge Ken Anderson here in central Texas who simply said “The System Failed”. Without any mention what-so-ever that, at the time, he was driving the system.

    1. Ha, the system. Which is made up of what again? The SS camp guards should have used the same excuse at the Nuremberg trials.

  8. So the DA says “My bad” and nothing else happened. So I presume the DA will be quitting his job, turning in his license, and spending his life working a a nonprofit to get other death row convictions reviewed. What? No? This is my shocked face.

    1. Perhaps more of your anger should be directed towards the defense attorney who failed to uncover and introduce all of this exculpatory evidence at trial.

  9. Factual innocence? Are you kidding me? If he claims he was watching TV by himself in his apartment and didn’t talk to anybody for a few hours before and after the murder or do anything else that could leave a verifiable trail, factual innocence is impossible to prove.

    Exoneration should be more than sufficient to get that piddly sum from the state ($11,000/year for being on death row? What?).

    1. Because fuck him, that’s why.

      It’s shit like this that is such an excellent reminder that not only are the people drawn to government venal, lazy, corrupt, and power-hungry, they are often sadists too.

    2. Factual innocence?

      No shit. This is compensation for being wrongly convicted and imprisoned, for having his rights violated. That should be the only question before the court, not ancillary issues like “factual” innocence (which I’m not even sure what that means, honestly). An actually guilty person can still have their rights violated, you know.

      Actual real world Innocence or guilt has nothing to do with it. Our system is designed so that actually guilty people will be acquitted because of the high burden of proof on the prosecution.

  10. Prove you’re innocent! Prove it!

  11. He should be paying the guy out of his own pocket, but I will admit that by admitting fault, he’s in the top .001% of prosecutors in the country.

  12. This guy isn’t going to see a frickin’ penny. He’s got 8 months to live, and all the state has to do is drag out the lawsuit that long. Child’s play.

    1. Couldn’t the estate continue the case?

  13. So if the former ADA says the guy deserves to be compensated with someone else’s money, he’s a selfish a-hole trying to shed his personal guilt on the govt dime…. but if WE say this guy deserves to be compensated with someone else’s money, we are good, compassionate, philanthropic, justice-loving folks, right? Cause I don’t have 300K to donate but I DO want to be on the side of the angels and feel better about myself.

    Happy Friday

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