On Dec. 5, 1984, a black man from Louisiana named Glenn Ford was convicted of murder by an all-white jury in the shooting death of a jeweler, and sentenced to death.
About a year ago, Ford was exonerated after a district attorney in Caddo Parish discovered “credible evidence” that Ford was neither “present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder” of the jeweler. By that point he had served 30 years in prison. Now, the state of Louisiana is trying to deny Ford $330,000 in compensation for the freedom that was wrongfully taken away from him, on the basis that Ford can’t prove he was “factually innocent” of the crime. The state’s position has moved the lead prosecutor in Ford’s original case, Marty Stroud, to speak out about his role in sending an innocent man into “the hell hole” he endured until his name was cleared.
Stroud’s comments, which were published in the Shreveport Times, are extraordinary for their candor and gravity, and are worth reading in full. But the central takeaway is this extraordinary admission: “I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.”
In his letter, which was written in response to a Shreveport Times editorial and was published by the paper Friday, Stroud says that at the time of the trial, he believed he had the right man—and as a result, ignored leads he now believes he should have followed:
At the time this case was tried there was evidence that would have cleared Glenn Ford. The easy and convenient argument is that the prosecutors did not know of such evidence, thus they were absolved of any responsibility for the wrongful conviction. I can take no comfort in such an argument. As a prosecutor and officer of the court, I had the duty to prosecute fairly. While I could properly strike hard blows, ethically I could not strike foul ones.
He continues: “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.”
Stroud, who was 33 at the time of Ford’s trial, also says he regrets “placing before the jury dubious testimony from a forensic pathologist,” whose testimony he now sees as “pure junk science at its evil worst,” and says he is sickened by the fact that he and his team went out to celebrate their win after the verdict.
This video interview with Stroud posted by the Shreveport Times, in which he talks about the need to abolish the death penalty, is also worth watching.