Louisiana Inmate About to Go Free, After 30 Years on Death Row

Glenn Ford has spent the past three decades on Louisiana's death row, but according to previously undisclosed evidence, Ford wasn't even at the scene of the crime.

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Glenn Ford has spent the past three decades on Louisiana's death row for the 1983 murder of jewelry store owner Isadore Rozeman, but according to previously undisclosed evidence in the case, Ford wasn't even at the scene of the robbery where the murder took place. Prosecutors filed a motion late last week to vacate Ford's conviction and sentence in relation to Rozeman's death, the Shreveport Times reported on Monday. In 1984, an all-white Louisiana jury sentenced Ford, a black man, to the death penalty.

There's been a lot of speculation about new evidence in the Ford case, after the Times noticed a series of court filings suggesting that someone else might have confessed to the murder for which Ford was condemned. But last week's filings do not specify the exact reason for Ford's vindication. Instead, it refers to "new reliable information," adding:

 “the state now believes whatever the involvement of Glenn Ford in the robbery or murder of Isadore Rozeman, the new information, if known at the time of the trial, would reasonably have resulted in a different outcome. … Indeed, if the information had been within the knowledge of the state, Glenn Ford might not even have been arrested or indicted for this offense.”

According to the earlier court filings cited by the AP, a "reliable informant" facing questioning in an unrelated case told prosecutors that another man had admitted to Rozeman's murder. Since the beginning, Ford has maintained his innocence, claiming that he only had a peripheral involvement with the robbery after the fact: a man asked him to pawn jewelry that turned out to bear a resemblance to some taken from the shop. Ford did yard work for Rozeman before his death.

Andrew Cohen has a lot more context on the rather under-discussed case over at The Atlantic. He notes that if Ford is allowed to walk free, the exoneration will close a chapter in a particularly remarkable case: "It is never too late to put to right a wrong," Cohen writes, "But what also is striking about this case is how weak it always was." He continues:

Ford's murder trial was constitutionally flawed in almost every way. The two attorneys he was assigned were utterly unprepared for the job. The lead attorney was an oil and gas attorney who have never tried a case—criminal or civil—to a jury. The second attorney, two years out of law school, was working at an insurance defense firm on slip-and-fall cases. Both attorneys were selected from an alphabetical listing of lawyers at the local bar association.

After decades of appealing through the courts to clear his name, Ford could walk free as soon as Wednesday, after a hearing before a judge.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.