Glenn Ford, one of the nation’s longest-serving prisoners on death row, is scheduled to be freed from a Louisiana prison after he was exonerated of charges that he killed a man in 1983, his lawyers announced.
A Louisiana court on Monday ordered that Ford, an African American who served 30 years on death row, be released after new information exonerated the former yard worker of killing a white man. Ford was expected to be released Tuesday.
[Updated, 5:53 p.m.: Ford walked free Tuesday afternoon. Asked how it felt, he told WAFB-TV, “My mind’s going in all kinds of directions but it feels good.” He said he felt some resentment “because I was locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do.”]
“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,” said Gary Clements and Aaron Novod, attorneys from the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana who represented Ford.
The attorneys said they had argued that Ford was convicted after a trial during which he had inexperienced counsel and information was wrongfully suppressed.
Prosecutors petitioned to overthrow the charges after an informant offered “new information which corroborates what Mr. Ford had claimed all along: that he was not present at nor involved in the crime for which he had been convicted and sentenced to death,” his attorneys said.
Ford, then 34, was arrested in February 1984 and charged with killing Isadore Rozeman, 56, a jeweler and watchmaker. Rozeman was killed in his shop in Shreveport in November 1983.
Ford and a pair of brothers were eventually accused of murder and theft of assorted jewelry from Rozeman’s store, but only Ford stood trial. A Caddo Parish jury convicted him of first-degree murder and decided he should be put to death. Ford has been on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola since being transferred there in August 1988.
Ford, who had done occasional yardwork for Rozeman, repeatedly denied any part in the killing. He voluntarily went to the police when he learned they wanted to talk to him.
During a series of interviews with police, his lawyers said, Ford had stated that he had gone to see Rozeman on the day of the murder and that Rozeman had told him that he did not have any work for him. Ford also discussed meeting and spending time with a man named “O.B.” According to Ford, O.B. asked Ford to sell a .38 revolver though O.B. never actually gave Ford the weapon. O.B. did give Ford jewelry, which he wanted Ford to pawn.
Ford pawned the jewelry. Receipts showed that the jewelry was similar to goods taken from Rozeman’s shop.
Ford later identified a suspect named Jake Robinson from a set of photographs, and identified Jake’s brother Henry, also a suspect in the murder, as O.B. Ford said that identifying the Robinson brothers as suspects caused him to be afraid for his life. About three months later, Robinson’s girlfriend, Marvella Brown, was interviewed by Shreveport detectives and implicated Ford in the shooting.
Ford’s trial began on Nov. 26, 1984. When she testified then, Brown admitted she had “lied about all of it,” Ford’s attorneys stated.
Still, the all-white jury returned a guilty verdict and the jury recommended a sentence of death during a penalty phase. The charges against Jake and Henry Robinson were later dismissed.
Ford and his attorneys continued to fight the conviction, and by 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,” according to the lawyers.
Last week, the state and Ford’s counsel filed motions to vacate his conviction and sentence. The petition was granted Monday, Ford’s lawyers said.