One year ago, I wrote in this publication about the exoneration of an innocent man named Glenn Ford, who had languished in a prison on death row for the murder of a Shreveport jeweler that he did not commit. At the time, I was thrilled for Ford and pushed Louisiana officials to consider raising compensation to help a man who spent almost three decades behind bars.
Not only has the state not done the right thing by increasing its paltry sum of $25,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration up to maximum of $250,000, officials are fighting not to give Ford any money at all, even though he is now suffering from Stage 4 cancer.
One year ago, I wrote that the very least Louisiana could do for this man was to use the federal minimum guideline of $50,000 per year or to lift its $250,000 cap no matter how many years an innocent person has lost. Louisiana also can provide up to $80,000 to exonerated inmates for loss of life opportunities, for a possible total of $330,000. Instead of doing either suggestion to compensate Ford, Louisiana officials have argued they don’t owe him anything because at the time of his wrongful conviction, the state acted in good faith based on his fair trial.
Marty Stroud disagrees. He should know. Stroud was the ambitious lead prosecutor who made sure Ford was sentenced to die in a 1984 capital murder trial riddled with judicial missteps. This month, Stroud not only offered his voice to the growing chorus of supporters pressing Louisiana lawmakers to do the right thing, he also apologized to the man he convicted.
Stroud wrote, “The audacity of the state’s effort to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered in the name of Louisiana justice is appalling.” I commend Stroud for taking this very public stand and for saying sorry to Ford, to the jury, and to the victim’s family — who thought they were getting closure.
Not many prosecutors have had the courage to apologize, privately or publicly, for the damage their decisions and mistakes have cost. And while Stroud made clear he did not hide evidence at trial, prosecutorial misconduct is one of the leading causes for wrongful convictions. I thank Stroud for 16 words that may give Ford a little comfort in the fight ahead.
“I apologize to Glenn Ford for all the misery I have caused him and his family,” Stroud wrote.
So far, 329 people have been exonerated by DNA in this country, according to the Innocence Project. It is no surprise that my native Texas leads all states with 52 exonerees. But I am shocked that a state as small as Louisiana is in the top five jurisdictions. It makes me angry and sad, that even in the face of truth and innocence, officials can dare cling to a wrong instead of embrace a right.
Just sign the damn check, Louisiana.