On June 29, 2015, Glenn Ford, a proud father, grandfather, and resident of New Orleans, lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of sixty-five. He was able to share his final days with friends, loved ones, and family, though he had been apart from those people for most of his adult life. Mr. Ford was convicted in 1984 of a murder he did not commit. He then spent 29 years, 3 months, and 5 days in solitary confinement on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
It was not until March 2014 that Mr. Ford was exonerated on the basis of secret, still not publicly revealed information, and Mr. Ford was released. At the time of his release, he was the longest-serving death row inmate in the United States. The State of Louisiana denied Mr. Ford’s petition under Louisiana’s wrongful conviction compensation statute, so despite his exoneration, all Mr. Ford received for his nearly thirty years on death row was $20 for a bus ride home from prison. Shortly after his release, he was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer.
While it is still publicly unknown what the exonerating evidence was that freed Mr. Ford, the prosecutor who secured Mr. Ford’s conviction has admitted that the exonerating evidence was so strong that had it been disclosed during the investigation (as required), there would not have been sufficient evidence to even arrest Mr. Ford, much less prosecute or convict him. Indeed, the only evidence at the trial directly linking Mr. Ford to the murder was the testimony of the girlfriend of one of the actual killers. And even her testimony collapsed during the trial after she admitted that her incriminating statement was a lie fabricated by Shreveport detectives. The all white jury nevertheless convicted Mr. Ford, and the District Attorney’s office then dropped charges against the actual killers (who were later implicated in at least four subsequent murders).
In a rare move, one of the prosecutors responsible for this grave miscarriage of justice, A. Marty Stroud III, apologized to Mr. Ford in a televised interview shortly before Ford’s death, owning that the wrongful conviction was a stain on Stroud that would be with him for the rest of his life. Stroud also wrote a letter published by The Shreveport Times, publicly admitting that Mr. Ford was railroaded: that at the time the case was tried, there was evidence clearing Mr. Ford. While Stroud’s letter defensively downplays any intentional misconduct on his own part, his shame that he had arrogantly pursued the win, rather than truth or justice, is palpable.
At the time of Mr. Ford’s arrest and trial, Shreveport had a notorious history of racially discriminatory law enforcement and problems with constitutional compliance that were often overtly racist. The city had a long history of thwarting efforts at desegregation. It is against this backdrop that the prosecution used six of its eight peremptory challenges to strike all of the black jurors from Mr. Ford’s jury panel in order to secure a conviction. It is against this backdrop that the prosecution callously pursued a conviction and the death penalty against an innocent black man, despite strong proof of his innocence. And the institutional racism and blatantly skewed justice system that victimized Mr. Ford continue to thrive in Shreveport today.
The nearly three decades Glenn Ford spent in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he did not commit are simply unimaginable. That the State failed to disclose evidence of his innocence, available at the time of his trial, is sickening. Loevy & Loevy is proud to represent Mr. Ford posthumously in his wrongful conviction case, but cognizant that there is no way to truly right this wrong.