COURTROOM JUNGLE

FORD JUNGLE

In the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle actor Glenn Ford had to face a classroom full of juvenile delinquents played by such as Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, and Jamie Farr, 20 and nearly 30-somethings playing teenagers.

In 1984 in State of Louisiana vs Glenn Ford a non-actor Glenn Ford played a real life role as a defendant charged with a murder he did not commit.

In 2014, after serving thirty years n the infamous Angola State Prison on Death Row after conviction for the crime he did not commit, Ford was released after evidence came to light about the actual perpetrators of that murder.

You can read more about him and the context of that story here, and realize that eating a doughnut and opening a car door represent huge triumphs for a man wronged by the American (In)Justice System.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/glenn-fords-first-days-of-freedom-after-30-years-on-death-row/284396/

In the aftermath of Ford’s release now comes this extraordinary apology of the lead prosecutor in that case, A.M. “Marty” Stroud, III which, if nothing more, would itself be an eloquent message as to why the death penalty is so wrong. though Stroud himself has followed up his apology with a clear appeal to end the barbaric death penalty.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/longform/opinion/readers/2015/03/20/lead-prosecutor-offers-apology-in-the-case-of-exonerated-death-row-inmate-glenn-ford/25049063/

Unlike the vast majority of public figures who issue namby-pamby apologies because someone “may have been offended”…clearly meant as a “fuck you” instead, Stroud minces no words in what should be the model of such self remonstrations.

I apologize to Glenn Ford for all the misery I have caused him and his family.

I apologize to the family of [the victim, Isadore} Mr. Rozeman for giving them the false hope of some closure.

I apologize to the members of the jury for not having all of the story that should have been disclosed to them.

I apologize to the court in not having been more diligent in my duty to ensure that proper disclosures of any exculpatory evidence had been provided to the defense.

And this is how Stroud characterized himself and his mindset at the time of that 1984 trial.

In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie “And Justice for All,” “Winning became everything.”

After the death verdict in the Ford trial, I went out with others and celebrated with a few rounds of drinks. That’s sick. I had been entrusted with the duty to seek the death of a fellow human being, a very solemn task that certainly did not warrant any “celebration.”

In my rebuttal argument during the penalty phase of the trial, I mocked Mr. Ford, stating that this man wanted to stay alive so he could be given the opportunity to prove his innocence. I continued by saying this should be an affront to each of you jurors, for he showed no remorse, only contempt for your verdict.

In his mea culpa Marty Stroud makes it exceedingly clear what elements went into this unwarranted conviction and death sentence, elements that can be to some degree found in nearly all the 150+ death row exonerations, each of which would itself serve as a convincing argument to end capital punishment.

There were lying or perjury committing witnesses.

There was racial bias (An all white jury faced by a black defendant, any potential black jurors eliminated by the prosecutor.)

There was junk forensic science that was almost laughable in retrospect. (Testimony that the shooter could only have been left-handed, as was Ford)

There was ineffective counsel, but at least here not due to lack of effort. But when your appointed counsel has never tried a criminal case, let alone a capital one, you may as welll do the proverbial “bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” ritual.

That even ONE defendant is sent to Death Row due to such incompetence is offensive to humanity, that it happens time and time again is thoroughly obscene.

Everyone knows life can be a jungle and unfair. Our courtrooms should be immune to that.

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Comments

  • Wayne Muller  On March 22, 2015 at 8:52 PM

    David I know that you are aware that we agree on this; that I have ok am against the death penalty. I assume that you are appealing to the sense of unfairness in a case where somebody is wrongly convicted. My own appeal extends past this; to an appeal to the conscience and an argument that all lives have value, even the lives of those who do heinous things. One can make a good argument that the death penalty is inclined to disproportionately effect my notifies and those of lesser financial means, and you can make a case for the wrongly convicted, but if we can’t make a case for the value of life and the loss that we all endure when we choose to take it from another, then isn’t all else negotiable?

  • Little_Minx  On March 24, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    Utah just restored the firing squad for executions, in case of the absence of a drug cocktail (some of the drugs have become difficult, nay impossible, to procure for that purpose any more).

  • Tourist  On March 24, 2015 at 11:10 PM

    At some early point in human existence we discovered the value of cooperation. We formed communities. We developed rules and standards of behavior, with incentives and punishments, to keep life safe and predictable and our commerce flowing. We decided there were people who should not live among us. We banished them; we imprisoned them; we put them to death. By what right did we do any of that? Beats me. Probably “greater good” or “needs of the many” or something.

    Everybody dies. When is not trivial, nor how, but an end is natural. Life behind bars is not natural. We’ve had discussions around here before about which is actually worse, life or death. Some of this is semantic, I know, but how is a sentence of life the more moral one, given that our right to do anything unto another seems founded on nothing but convenience and the power to do it?

    • Little_Minx  On March 25, 2015 at 1:30 PM

      Can’t recall where I read or heard it, but there is a movement afoot to have life imprisonment without parole declared cruel and unusual punishment.

    • Devildog  On March 27, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      People should have the right to decide death is the right choice for them, to die with dignity, so perhaps prisoners sentenced to life without parole should also have that right. As for those sentenced to death having the right to convert that to life without parole, that is another matter.

      How many serving a life without parole sentence have committed suicide, something I would think is not that difficult to do even in prison. But, let us decide how moral is that sentence. Not for me though!

      • Tourist  On March 27, 2015 at 3:09 PM

        Devildog, that’s thoughtful and thought-provoking. I’m not sure I will have anything to add. If anyone does, I hope it will be first in the bigger direction of right, wrong, what it would mean, what it would say, and not in the smaller direction of how to administer cases.

        • Devildog  On March 27, 2015 at 8:33 PM

          Tourist, I don’t think there will be much comment. The “believers” like Mugsy probably will say that not only is it immoral to execute someone but it is immoral for someone to take one’s life or to seek someone to do the job (God’s Provence).
          The UMOCs probably believe that life without parole is immoral to begin with, that anyone who chooses a death option is either a minority who life has dealt a bad hand and sees no hope for the future or is low IQ who is unable to make an informed decision. These people probably would rather have an indeterminate sentence rather than life without parole with the prisoner coming up for parole review after 30 days before a board comprised of community organizers.

  • Tourist  On March 27, 2015 at 10:46 PM

    Devildog, I think you’re close enough to right on all counts, until the parties seek to clarify. Truly, I had not thought about giving the individual the choice. What I wonder, among many things, is, if a prisoner can decide that he/she doesn’t want to continue, and can then presumably be put to death – not have to do it him/herself – what about the rest of society? Not just “death with dignity” in the case of age or disease. What if one’s loving spouse died and the person didn’t want to go on? Should he/she be able to get help with the act, or have it done? Even if we (society) are ready to talk about prisoners (are we?), I doubt we are ready to talk about that. Yet how would we distinguish one person’s being granted the choice form another? Well, one way would be to simply say that we are only talking about prisoners. Easy. But where are we going with this?

    Speaking of going, I have to, now, really.

    • Devildog  On March 29, 2015 at 1:29 AM

      Tourist, we could have death panels to determine who may choose to die and who may not. Nah, that won’t work. So, either a person, any person, has the right to have assistance in choosing death, and that ain’t going to happen soon, or no one has that right. So, forget about prisoner’s having that right-hell, sexual offenders can’t even choose castration over prison.

      • Tourist  On March 29, 2015 at 3:52 AM

        Devildog, I didn’t say we couldn’t distinguish prisoners from others. We easily could by saying we are only talking about prisoners – like baseball’s antitrust exemption. The issue will come up, however. Seriously, I think it’s an interesting idea. My gut is against it. The question is, why?

        • Devildog  On March 30, 2015 at 12:27 AM

          Tourist, when you come up with the answer to why you are against “choice”, let us know. I doubt that the issue will come up in a serious way but if it does and is accepted, we may find very few choose death over life in prison without chance of parole (because despite the sentence one can always hope). Then, there goes one of the arguments of the opponents of the death penalty-that life without parole is “worse than” the death penalty.

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