Louisiana Supreme Court refuses to hear wrongful conviction compensation case

By Tara Mapes | Oct 16, 2016

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana's Supreme Court has refused to hear a case to determine if the family of a deceased man who was exonerated after serving nearly 30 years on death row is due compensation for wrongful conviction.

Two lower courts ruled that state law prohibits the Glenn Ford family from claiming compensation from the victims' compensation fund because he committed crimes related to the original wrongful conviction. The law denies compensation for someone who committed "any crime based upon the same set of facts used in the original conviction." Ford died of lung cancer June 2015, approximately one year after being cleared of the murder of a Shreveport jeweler.

“Although the state released Glenn Ford after 30 years of wrongful incarceration, the state refuses to be held accountable for, or to even otherwise acknowledge, the gross injustice done to Glenn and his surviving family," Andrea Armstrong, executrix of Ford’s estate, told the Louisiana Record.

The Exoneration

In late 2013, the Caddo Parish district attorney’s office reported that it had acquired convincing evidence that Ford “was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman,” and filed a motion to vacate Ford’s conviction and sentence.

In March 2014, the trial court granted the state’s motion. Ford was released the following day after spending nearly 30 years on death row. In June 2014, all charges against Ford were dismissed.

Request for Compensation

On Dec. 2, 2014, Ford filed a petition for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment pursuant to state law. The law provides that a petitioner is entitled to compensation if he has served in whole, or part, of a sentence of imprisonment, the conviction was vacated and the petitioner proved by clear and convincing evidence that he was factually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

The Louisiana attorney general’s office filed an opposition to Ford’s motion, contending Ford was not “factually innocent,” as required by the statute, because he committed other crimes during the murder.

“The Louisiana attorney general’s office has perverted the spirit and intent of the law establishing compensation for wrongful conviction by opposing his request for compensation,” Armstrong said.

In March 2015, the trial court denied Ford’s petition for compensation. The court found that although Ford established that his conviction was vacated, he failed to prove that he was factually innocent.

The trial judge included in the decision that Ford committed several other crimes and his involvement in the underlying offense was undeniable. She ruled that the evidence presented at the murder trial established that Ford committed the crimes of possession of stolen items and accessory after the fact to armed robbery. While he didn’t commit murder, he was a principal to it.

Trial records referenced in the opinion included witness testimony that Ford was involved in the robbery of the victim, allegations that his handwriting matched that found on pawn tickets for items taken in the robbery and pawned the same day, and Ford’s own testimony not fully refuting his involvement in the robbery that led to the murder of the victim.

First Appeal

In April, after the Ford estate’s appeal was filed, the Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit agreed with the trial court’s decision that Ford failed to establish he was factually innocent. After reviewing the trial records, evidence, testimony of witnesses and Ford, the decision states, “We conclude that Ford’s failure to testify and potentially explain that he was not involved in other criminal activity on the day of the murder, and for some time before and after it, corroborates Ford’s actual commission of other crimes." 

The court supported its decision concurring what it deemed as “uncontroverted evidence [that] shows that Ford knew of the plan to rob Mr. Rozeman and committed an act in furtherance of the crime…”

The Supreme Court’s Decision

Ford’s legal team appealed the Second Circuit’s decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Supreme Court announced Oct. 10 that it denied the writ to hear the case, upholding the state district and appeal court rulings.

Although this is a setback, it is not the end of the story; Glenn has two federal lawsuits seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction and the way he was treated in prison. We will continue to seek accountability and justice," Armstrong said. 

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Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office Louisiana Attorney General Louisiana Supreme Court

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