My regular readers will know that I abhor the arrogance of police and prosecutors who play a significant role in the wrongful conviction of innocent accused, both in Canada and the United States, but refuse to acknowledge their responsibility in these gross miscarriages of justice.
Imagine my delight when I read about the mea culpa from Louisiana prosecutor Marty Stroud III who sent an innocent man, Glenn Ford, to death row in 1984. His apology in the form of a letter to the editor of a Shreveport newspaper was poignantly refreshing:
“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…
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.”
Thirty-years after his conviction and almost as many years since Mr. Stroud left the prosecutor’s office, Glenn Ford, assisted by the Louisiana Innocence Project, was released from death row.
The former prosecutor wrote his letter when he learned that Mr. Ford was battling to receive compensation from the State for his wrongful conviction, a fight that was proving difficult.
Stroud wrote that he should have listened to rumours that others were involved in the crime and he ought to have realized that the testimony he introduced from a forensic pathologist, who opined that the shooter was left-handed, was nothing more than “junk science”.
The exoneration of Glenn Ford is bittersweet, as at age 64 he has terminal lung cancer. As for Marty Stroud I respect his courage to admit his mistakes and can only hope that other players in the justice system who bear some responsibility for wrongful convictions will follow his lead.
As for the state of Louisiana it is unconscionable for them to deny and delay Mr. Ford’s compensatory claim. He is seeking the sum of $330,000 an amount that pales next to the $10 million dollars rightfully paid to Canada’s David Milgaard for his 23-year wrongful incarceration for rape and murder.
No amount of money is adequate payment for the loss of one’s liberty and freedom, made worse by the prospects of unnatural death at the pleasure of the State and the justice system.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang