BY NOW MANY have read and been moved by the extraordinary mea culpa published in the Shreveport Times by a man named Marty Stroud III, who more than thirty years ago sent Glenn Ford to die for a crime he did not commit.
“How wrong was I,” wrote Stroud, who as a young prosecutor convicted Ford, a black man, with the help of an all-white jury in Louisiana’s Caddo Parish. Stroud’s murder case against Ford was bankrupt on its face — at trial, a key witness admitted in open court that her testimony had been a lie. Yet Ford didn’t stand a chance. His court-appointed lawyers had never handled a criminal trial, let alone a capital case. He was sentenced to die, though fortunately never executed. After decades spent fighting to prove his innocence, Ford was was finally cleared after the DA’s office revealed it had obtained exonerating evidence. But by the time he was released from prison last year, at 64, Ford was sick with cancer. Doctors say he has just months to live. Ford has spent his last days fighting for financial compensation, which the state has so far denied him. In his anguished letter to the Times, Stroud said that Ford “deserves every penny” for his lost freedom and expressed deep remorse “for all the misery I have caused him and his family.”
...If there is room for redemption at all — and if we are honest about addressing the crisis of mass incarceration — we must start by recognizing that the 2.3 million people we have put behind bars are no less human than the rest of us. That includes many who have done terrible things. What if we gave more prisoners a second chance, some meaningful shot at parole — an opportunity to redefine their legacy, like Marty Stroud did when he sat down to write to the Shreveport Times? What kind of human potential might they reveal?