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Black man exonerated after three decades on death row

AUTODIDACT 17 | 4/3/2014, 1:20 p.m.

On Tuesday, March 11, Glenn Ford, 64, stepped from the grueling confines of Louisiana’s infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for the first time in nearly 30 years after a Shreveport, La., judge vacated his murder conviction.

“My mind’s going all kinds of directions, but it feels good,” Ford said just outside the prison gates.

In 1984, an all-Caucasian jury convicted Ford, an African-American, and sentenced him to die for the Nov. 5, 1983, murder of Isadore Rozeman, 56, inside the Caucasian man’s jewelry repair shop. Reports say there were no eyewitnesses and no murder weapon was found. Ford had worked as an odd jobs man for Rozeman.

Ford was implicated by Marvella Brown, who later confessed to fabricating her story: “I did lie to the court … I lied about it all,” she testified. Brown was the girlfriend of Jake Robinson, who, along with his brother Henry, was initially charged for the murder, but later had those charges dropped.

During a police interrogation, Ford claimed that one of the Robinsons urged him to pawn a .38 revolver and some jewelry similar to the items stolen from Rozeman’s shop when he was murdered.

Ford’s legal representation at trial was woefully inexperienced. They failed to acquire some relevant evidence that may have vindicated him.

In late 2013, prosecutors notified the defense that “a confidential informant for the Caddo Parish sheriff’s office stated that Jake Robinson told him that he, not Mr. Ford, shot and killed Isadore Rozeman.”

After prosecutors petitioned the court to release him, a judge ordered his freedom due to the new information corroborating his alibi.

Ford’s attorneys, Gary Clements and Aaron Novod, expressed joy about the ruling: “We are very pleased to see Glenn Ford finally exonerated, and we are particularly grateful that the prosecution and the court moved ahead so decisively to set Mr. Ford free.”

Even the victim’s nephew, Phillip Rozeman, chimed in: “This is a positive reflection on the criminal justice system. We don’t have animosity for anyone. If someone else was involved or others were involved in his death, there also will be justice for those people.”

Ford said he harbored some resentment at being wrongly incarcerated: “I’ve been locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do. I can’t go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40.”

Amnesty International USA Senior Campaigner Thenjiwe McHarris aded: “As we see more and more innocent people like Glenn Ford released from death row, that’s a wake-up call that we have to look at our broken system.”

Ford is the 144th death row inmate to be exonerated over the past four decades, underlining the perils of innocent people being legally lynched.

Prosecutors are pursuing leads but would not divulge the new evidence, saying it could jeopardize their future case against the actual killer.

“His release, along with the hundreds of others that have been exonerated based on DNA and other evidence, which has proven their innocence—it only goes to show that that system is extremely flawed,” determined death row survivor and co-founder of Campaign to End the Death Penalty Lawrence Ghana Hayes. “I think of Shaka Sankofa, Troy Davis and so many others who have gone to their deaths, who have said over and over again, ‘I am not guilty of this crime!’”