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.