Marty Stroud was 33 years old when he fought to have Glenn Ford sentenced to death. Stroud was relatively new in his role as assistant district attorney in Caddo Parish, La., when Ford was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder for the 1983 killing of a watchmaker who ran a jewelry store in Shreveport. “The case took about a week and a half,” Stroud recalls now. Ford, a black man before an all-white jury, was convicted and sentenced in 1984. He remained on death row for three decades. It was the first and only death sentence Stroud won as a prosecutor.
Last year, Ford was declared a free man and released from prison. His attorneys said upon his release he was sentenced due to questionable testimony as well as inexperienced defense. The lawyers he had during his initial trial had not tried a case before a jury before, Stroud said.
Other men had also initially been charged in the shooting of Isadore Rozeman, the watchmaker, but those charges were later dismissed. In 2013, Ford’s attorneys say they were told that a confidential informant for the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office pointed to one of those other men as the person who killed Rozeman, though precise details remain unclear.
In March 2014, after prosecutors and Ford’s attorneys filed motions to vacate his conviction, the state district court ordered his release. However, more than a year later, Ford is still fighting the state for compensation. He’s also facing an advanced cancer diagnosis.
Stroud knows all of this. He says he knows now that Ford was innocent and he knows Ford’s trial “was fundamentally unfair.” He knows Ford is dying, and he knows the state is not paying Ford for the decades he lost.
“When he was exonerated last year, I was thrilled,” Stroud, 63, said in a telephone interview Friday. “I thought that justice had been done.”
A.M. “Marty” Stroud III, who grew up in Shreveport and is an attorney there, read about Ford’s problems getting the state to pay him in the Shreveport Times. Stroud could not believe it, so he began working on a letter to the editor of the newspaper to try and put his thoughts together. All of the things that had bothered him about the case and all of the things about the case that had built over the sleepless nights, poured out into the letter.
“I’m not one to write letters or get on soapboxes or anything like that,” Stroud said. “But I felt that in this particular case, I had a unique view of what had happened since I actually was there and had watched the progress through the system all these years.”
The result, which totals more than 1,500 words, was published online Friday by the Shreveport Times and widely circulated on social media. In the bracing letter, Stroud apologized for his role in taking away 30 years of Ford’s life. He says he was “arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself.” Stroud explained why he had turned against the death penalty he so eagerly sought in 1984, and he expressed both his remorse for what he did and his apology to Ford for what cannot be undone.
“I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning,” he wrote. Stroud recalled that late in the trial, while arguing for the death sentence, he mocked Ford for wanting to stay alive to try and prove his innocence, adding: “I continued by saying this should be an affront to each of you jurors, for he showed no remorse, only contempt for your verdict.”
Source: The Washington Post | Mark Berman