A former Louisiana prosecutor who helped send a now-exonerated inmate to death row in 1984 is condemning the capital punishment process and apologizing for his role in the conviction.
In a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport, former prosecutor A.M. “Marty” Stroud III said there was no exculpatory evidence in his possession, but that didn’t absolve him of blame in the prosecution of Glenn Ford, whose conviction was vacated30 years later based on evidence he did not participate in the robbery and murder. The Atlantic and the Associated Press have stories on the letter.
“My fault was that I was too passive,” Stroud wrote in a letter calling for state compensation for Ford. Stroud says he should have taken more seriously rumors about involvement of different parties to the crime. Nor should he have presented “dubious testimony” from a forensic pathologist who said the shooter had to have been left-handed, as Ford was, Stroud said.
“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.’
“After the death verdict in the Ford trial, I went out with others and celebrated with a few rounds of drinks. That’s sick. I had been entrusted with the duty to seek the death of a fellow human being, a very solemn task that certainly did not warrant any ‘celebration.’ “
Stroud said he also didn’t consider the unfairness of Ford “having appointed counsel who had never tried a criminal jury case much less a capital one.” He didn’t consider the impact of striking black jurors from the panel, resulting in an all-white jury in the trial of Ford, who is black.
“As a young 33-year-old prosecutor,” Stroud wrote, “I was not capable of making a decision that could have led to the killing of another human being. …
“I end with the hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford. But, I am also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it.”
Ford is currently undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer.