The Brennan Center posts, "The Meaning of the Exoneration of Glenn Ford," by Andrew Cohen.
There are dozens of reasons why capital cases take so long to resolve, only a few of them involve unreasonable delays by defendants, and almost all of them have a central theme: garbage in, garbage out. From the outset of these cases, judges and prosecutors too often fail to ensure basic fairness by giving capital defendants all of the due process rights to which they are entitled. Often these errors are so significant, and so obvious, that they demand aggressive appellate litigation on the part of defense attorneys. This litigation takes time and that time is compounded not, as Justice Scalia asserts, by wimpy procedural rules, but rather by the nature of judicial decision-making itself.
Let me take the most recent example, the exoneration of Glenn Ford in Louisiana, to illustrate this point. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1984 after a trial that was unconstitutional in virtually every respect. He was scheduled for execution in 1991. He was set free Tuesday. His case took three decades to resolve (fortunately without the execution of an innocent man) not just because his trial lawyers were incompetent, his prosecutor excluded blacks from the jury, and the evidence against him was woefully weak. It took that long because the Louisiana courts, aware of these manifest deficiencies, nevertheless failed to muster up the courage to remedy them.
At any point along the way, for decade after decade after decade, Louisiana’s judges could given Ford a new trial based upon the grave flaws that ruined his first trial. They could have said that the Constitution does not permit the conviction of a black man by an all-white jury after prosecutors systematically removed blacks from the jury pool. They could have said that the right to counsel necessarily includes a capital lawyer who has tried a case before and who knows how to hire a defense expert. They could have said that there were overwhelming concerns about the strength of the prosecution’s case.
"St. Paul lawyers play driving role in release of Louisiana death row inmate," is by Rochelle Olson for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
For years, when she’d walk into her downtown St. Paul office, criminal defense lawyer Deborah Ellis would see a photo of Louisiana death row inmate Glenn Ford perched at eye level on the reception desk.
It was “a reminder to fight the good fight,” she said.
On Tuesday night, Ellis watched on television as Ford, 64, walked out of Louisiana State Prison in Angola. He was one of the longest-serving death row inmates in U.S. history to be exonerated and released. “I’ve been crying ever since,” Ellis said.
Minnesota Lawyer posts, "Minnesota attorneys joyful at death row inmate’s release," by Elizabeth Ahlin.
The Minnesota criminal defense attorney who got her involved, Doug Thomson, died in 2007. Thomson underwrote the pro bono effort for years, until Ellis started her own firm in 1993 and took the Ford case with her. In the beginning, while working round the clock on a post-conviction relief petition, several other Minnesotans were by her side.
Elliot Olsen and Charles Jones both described joy at seeing Ford freed from prison this week. While the two attorneys did not stay with the case for decades like Ellis, they sunk many hours, over a couple years, pushing for serious consideration of Ford’s post-conviction relief petition, Olsen said. It’s rewarding, both said, to see Ford released.
“It’s just shocking that it took so long,” Olsen said.
The Shreveport Times reports, "Sheriff's detective credited with uncovering evidence freeing Ford," by Vickie Welborn.
Law enforcement’s job not only is to arrest the bad guys but to get at the truth of a crime. So when a Caddo sheriff’s investigator last year came across new information on a 30-year-old cold case, he went straight to the district attorney’s office.
Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator is crediting that investigator, Detective Terry Richardson, with uncovering information that ultimately led to freedom for former Shreveporter Glenn Ford, who at age 64 walked out of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on Tuesday after being sentenced to death row nearly 30 years ago.
“Cpl. Richardson developed this information while working on other homicides,” Prator said. “He came across information pertinent to this old case and, to his credit, he immediately notified the district attorney’s office and from there continued to follow up on information and work with the district attorney.”
"Death row inmate Glenn Ford released 30 years after wrongful conviction," is by Ed Pilkington for the Guardian.
Richard Dieter, an authority on capital punishment at the Death Penalty Information Center, said that Ford’s case “painfully reveals the fallibility of the death penalty and the risks we take with every death sentence. Some states are trying to speed up executions instead of addressing the underlying problems that have led to such mistakes.”
David Love, executive director of Witness to Innocence, an organisation of exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones, said that attempts to speed up the time from conviction to death showed that for some politicians “it’s more important to have finality than to have justice. I believe that’s a misguided approach. 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 will now go through the long process of trying to rebuild his life on the outside. Under Louisiana law he can apply for compensation of up to $25,000 for each year lost to detention, but only up to a ceiling of $250,000.
"After 30 years on death row, can a wronged man forgive?" is the Christian Science Monitor report by Lisa Suhay.
The news of the release of Glenn Ford after being released from a Louisiana prison after 30 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, is a dialogue opener for parents to discuss with children how to get past feelings of resentment to forgive and move forward.
Additional coverage includes:
"Louisiana Prisoner Exonerated, Freed After 30 Years on Death Row," at Democracy Now.
"Release ordered for Louisiana death row inmate," in the Baton Rouge Advocate.
"Man Exonerated, Freed After 3 Decades On Louisiana's Death Row," by Scott Neuman at NPR.
Slate posts, "Louisiana's Longest-Serving Death Row Inmate Freed After Three Decades," by Kelly Tunney.
"Black Man Sentenced To Death By All-White Jury Freed After 30 Years," by Nicole Flatow at Think Progress.
WAFB-TV posts, "Ford's ex-wife: I knew he was innocent," by Fred Childers, and, "Death row inmate freed, family of victim looks for answers," by Sasha Jones.
Earlier coverage of Glenn Ford's exoneration begins at the link.