Death Penalty

Glenn Ford Spent 30 Years on Death Row, Was Exonerated, Died, Yet is Still on Trial

A judge makes unfounded accusations against a dead man whose life was stolen to save the state from "automatic financial liability."


Glenn Ford, exonerated, dead, still on trial.

Glenn Ford spent 30 years on Louisiana's death row for a murder he didn't commit, only to die of cancer a year after being exonerated and released from prison in 2014.

The prosecutor who put him there, A.M. "Marty" Stroud III, has apologized for relying on "junk science" during the trial and for pursuing a court victory at all costs, at the expense of justice. Stroud even went so far as to admit that knowing what he knows now, Ford should never have even been arrested, since the hardest evidence against him was a statement from a witness who later recanted. 

Yet, somehow, members of the Louisiana legal establishment still insist on questioning Ford's innocence and even accuse him of things which were either never proven or proven to be false, all to protect the state from having to bear the modest financial cost of paying for the life they stole. 

Last month, an appeals court ruled Ford's family could not collect the $330,000 which state law says a wrongfully convicted person is entitled to, because even though Ford was exonerated, he could not prove he was "factually innocent" of any involvement in the crime. In response, Louisiana state Rep. Cedric Glover introduced a bill to correct what he described as "a technical over-interpretation of the law." 

But as Andrew Cohen writes at The Marshall Project, the introduction of this bill may have "spooked" Judge Joe Bleich, who wrote that the appeals court's decision denying Ford's family compensation would be amended, essentially as a means of destroying Glover's bill before the legislature even has a chance to vote on it.

In his memo, Bleich claims the state would be subject to "automatic financial liability" if Glover's bill (which by design would make it harder for the state to shirk its monetary obligations to compensate the wrongfully convicted) were to pass. 

Calling Bleich's memo "one of the most remarkable examples of judicial activism I have ever seen in nearly 20 years as a legal analyst," Cohen characterizes the rest of the amended decision: 

It's essentially an ad hominem attack on Ford in which assertions that were never proven at trial, or which were later refuted by state prosecutors, are leveled at a man no longer alive to defend himself. The "summary" labels Ford a "sinister guardian of the killers," for example. Not even the state lawyers fighting to deny compensation to Ford's family have made that allegation.

When people say they don't trust the system, this is precisely what they mean.

It's bad enough that Ford was wrongfully convicted by an all-white jury on shoddy evidence. It's worse that he spent 30 years on death row, then died a sad, impoverished, cancerous death before he had a chance to resume his life. It's appalling that his family is denied even modest compensation for the profound tragedy they suffered at the hands of the state. 

But it is simply unconscionable for a judge to slander a dead man, and try to pre-emptively destroy legislation from the bench, all to save the state money. 

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  1. God damnit. What is this, nut-punch Thursday?

    1. It’s a day ending in “y”, so it’s nut punch day at Reason.

  2. I was gonna make a “Blackboard Jungle” joke but the whole fucking thing is too depressing.

  3. Urge to slaughter, rising.

    1. Something Chipper?

  4. It’s appalling that his family is denied even modest compensation for the profound tragedy they suffered at the hands of the state.

    Finally, someone serious about cutting spending.

  5. “Volunteers don’t build prisons and keep non-violent people locked in cages. We can’t rely on faith groups to beat minorities and frame them for murder. We can’t ask second graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt, who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids from playing in their front yard unattended. You hear a lot about government overreach. Oh, Obama, he’s for big government. Listen, it’s not government overreach to say our government’s responsible for making sure that you can’t wash somebody’s hair without a license, or install a shower in your own home, or cook food for homeless people. These are the most basic services. There’s no more basic element sustaining human life than TOP MEN. It’s not too much to expect for all Americans that they bow and scrape to their masters.”

    – Obama

  6. Like my junior prom night afterparty, we get our checks and balances in messy spurts and at the wrong times.

    1. If only the state could be a 2-pump chump. We already have the cold, bitter disappointment to go with it.

  7. Yet, somehow, members of the Louisiana legal establishment still insist on questioning Ford’s innocence and even accuse him of things which were either never proven or proven to be false, all to protect the state from having to bear the modest financial cost of paying for the life they stole.

    What the hell do they care? It’s not as if they’ll be paying the bill; mind you, they should. Fuck, all they’re really protecting are their own egos.

    1. Exactly this.

  8. We built a wall and made Glenn Ford pay for it.

  9. The last thing the state wants is to be held liable. It’s a slippery slope.

  10. This is hardly unique. It is a pretty basic element of human nature to protect one’s self. In this case the judge feels impugned by the Governor’s actions, so he’s fighting to justify himself. Nobody thinks they are the bad guy in the story – everyone has their reasons for their actions and pretty much thinks they are doing the right thing at the time.

    I had occasion to hear from one of the prosecutors involved in one of those early 90’s preschool abuse panic cases that made the national news. It was pretty well documented that nothing actually happened and eventually everyone was cleared, but not before there were many abuses of the law with life in prison held over people’s heads to get them to testify against each other or accept onerous plea agreements.

    After the appeals had finally succeeded, the prosecutor was adamant that the accused had gotten away with evil child abuse and worse, and years later they still had hopes of finding a way to “bring them to justice”. They literally had a completely different world view – one in which everyone else was duped and only they could see the truth.

    Nobody wants to believe that they sent a young, recently married and newly pregnant lady to prison for life on made-up charges. That would make them the villain in the story, and nobody wants to be the villain.

    1. That’s what makes them sociopaths.

    2. Wait, what? Glen Ford was a pregnant lady?

      1. Take your choice:

        1. Prison does weird things to a person.

        2. Something something transgender something something bathroom something something.

      2. Gender, pregnancy, it’s all in your head.

      3. No, but the young assistant working at the day care center was. She was pretty much a bad-ass too. They trumped up charges against her and eventually won a conviction – basically forever in prison. They offered her a deal that would get her out pretty quickly if she would testify against her boss.

        She told them to pound sand. Straight-up bad-ass. Not many would have the courage to stand down the barrel of a gun like that in the name of honor and justice.

        1. That makes more sense. Yes, good for her.

    3. I had occasion to hear from one of the prosecutors involved in one of those early 90’s preschool abuse panic cases

      So what’s it like to interact with pure evil?

      William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
      Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
      William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
      Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

      1. She was actually very nice and kinda cute. But very well insulated in a cocoon of self-protecting delusion.

        Kind like interacting with these guys. Only with a very well-contained area of psychosis.

        (and I do recommend the link. I keep going back and forth between elaborate parody and amazing delusional behavior. either way, the dedication is impressive.)

        1. Oh my. I’ll have to savor this video.

  11. You’d think the incarceration of such a legendary actor would get more attention in the press.

  12. Would it have been better if he had been wrongfully convicted by an all black jury? Just asking.

    1. Thirty years ago in Louisiana?

      Do you think that the likely or possible element of prejudice would be reduced had Mr. Ford been convicted by a jury that had one more thing in common with him/could better relate to him?

      1. Eh, maybe. But criminal trials are pretty stacked against the defense, particularly if you are poor. Most people just presume that the police and prosecutors are honest and true and doing the right thing. The defense has to turn that tide – not an easy task.

        So if you are not a fine, upstanding member of society you have a tough case to make, regardless of race.

        Being white didn’t help Jimmie Duncan.

        1. What an example of criminal misconduct, Cyto.

          If Hayne and West aren’t locked up for the rest of their lives, the Louisiana justice system has even more problems than I’ve read about.

        2. So, I for one would in a case like this, prefer an all-black jury. From what I’ve seen the average black person has more skepticism when it comes to the cops than the average white person. Regardless of my own race, I’d prefer a black jury when it comes down to my word versus the police. Might not give much of an advantage, but you take what you can get.

  13. all to save the state money.

    It’s not to save money. It’s to save face. They can’t go around admitting to making mistakes. That could lead to, I dunno, justice or something. The legal system is about power, not justice.

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  15. Rev up the ‘chippers, boys! We got a live one!

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