Thursday, March 13, 2014

Proof that the system works? Bullshit.

"I can't go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40 stuff like that." Glenn Ford (March 11, 2014)
For 26 years Glenn Ford sat on death row in Louisiana's infamous Angola penitentiary. For 26 years he sat in prison for the 1983 murder of Isadore Rozeman, a jeweler in Shreveport. For 26 years he steadfastly denied he was the killer.

On Tuesday State District Judge Ramona Emanuel signed a motion vacating the conviction based on new evidence that corroborated Mr. Ford's longstanding claims that he had nothing to do with the murder.

For those who say that the deterrent effect of the death penalty is eroded by the amount of time it takes the state to actually get around to killing inmates, that long delay saved the life of an innocent man. For those who claim that the death penalty allows for closure and that the delays associated with the state-sponsored killing of inmates force victims' families to relive their nightmare over and over, those delays saved the life of an innocent man.

For those who say the exoneration of Mr. Ford is proof that our criminal (in)justice system works, I say you don't have a fucking clue what you're talking about. Yes, the legal process prevented the State of Louisiana from killing an innocent man, but that same legal process allowed an innocent man to spend nearly three decades behind bars.

The exoneration of Mr. Ford is yet another indictment of our criminal (in)justice system. Whether his wrongful conviction was the result of incompetent legal representation, a prosecutor more interested in winning a case than seeing that justice was done or a judge who turned a blind eye to the the travesty unfolding in front of him, the point is that our system failed Mr. Ford. Our system failed his family. Our system failed the family of Isadore Rozeman.

While the state was busy depriving Mr. Ford of his freedom, the real killer escaped detection. While law enforcement and prosecutors played around with the evidence, the real killer walked the streets as a free man. Far from bringing about closure to Mr. Rozeman's family, the machinations of the state have opened up the old wounds and poured salt into them.

Witnesses lie. Witnesses forget. The police jump to conclusions. The police and prosecutors play hide the sausage with exculpatory evidence. Judges make rulings based on the upcoming election rather than the Constitution. All the while an innocent man sits at a table next to a lawyer and watches as his life is taken away from him.

Now I'm sure they do it everywhere else, but in Harris County prosecutors like to stand before a jury panel during voir dire and do everything in the power to reduce their burden of proof. They do their best to convince prospective jurors that it's fine to convict someone even if you have doubts about the evidence. The do their best to convince jurors that it's acceptable to guess about holes in the evidence. And the black-robed prosecutors judges play right along.

What the hell do they care? They're going home at the end of the trial and there are plenty of other cases on the docket. They don't have to live with the consequences of what they've done. They're just out there advocating for their position. Youth, hubris and the desire to win is a very dangerous combination.

But for Mr. Ford, this wasn't a game. This was his life. A life that has been lost. There is no way to replace the 30 years he lost to this false accusation. All of life's memories that we take for granted don't exist for Mr. Ford. Now he's left to pick up the pieces and try to start anew at age 64.

Mr. Ford is entitled to $330,000 for his years behind bars - that's the statutory maximum in Louisiana. That's not enough to reimburse him for the years he lost. But even if the amount he was entitled to was limitless, no one could ever compensate Mr. Ford for what he went through.

A heinous crime was committed in 1984 and the State of Louisiana and our criminal (in)justice system must be held to answer for it.

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