"I was not a very nice person and I had no business trying a death case"
March 20, 2015 9:09 AM   Subscribe

And yet, despite this grave injustice, the state does not accept any responsibility for the damage suffered by one of its citizens. The bureaucratic response appears to be that nobody did anything intentionally wrong, thus the state has no responsibility. This is nonsensical. Explain that position to Mr. Ford and his family. Facts are stubborn things, they do not go away. The Louisiana prosecutor who helped send Glenn Ford to prison for 30 years, for a murder he did not commit, apologizes at length and slams the state for refusing to pay compensation after Ford was finally freed in 2014. [Note: autoplaying video]

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.

How totally wrong was I.
posted by maudlin (42 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow. That's a pretty thorough indictment of his past behavior - not just the behavior, but the root ideas that led to it. Not bad.
posted by entropone at 9:13 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I recently commented on how screwed up it is that so many prosecutors end up elected judges. Despite that, I would vote for this guy as judge in a heartbeat. Also any other office he sought. It is refreshing to see that sort of self reflection and humility expressed publicly.
posted by TedW at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


By expressing any remorse or change in his views he has disqualified himself. The American public wants elected officials who, once they take an unsupportable stance on something, stick with it forever.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:25 AM on March 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


i keep getting redirected to this url
https://accountsolution.gcion.com/redirect/?returnSessionKey=true&returnAutoLogin=true&redirectURL=http://www.shreveporttimes.com/?from=global


which my work browser says is blocked.

is there a direct link or an alternate link somewhere? i'd love to read this.
posted by sio42 at 9:30 AM on March 20, 2015


Can you get to it from the paper's home page?
posted by maudlin at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2015


Don't bother. WTF, Shreveport Times, putting TWO autoplaying videos on the same page?
posted by pjern at 9:33 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sorry about the autoplaying video (I have Flash blocked by default on all but a few sites.) I'll ask a mod to put up a warning in the original post.
posted by maudlin at 9:35 AM on March 20, 2015


Oh my gosh this is absolutely the best thing. Wish more prosecutors would do the same thing.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:52 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The bureaucratic response appears to be that nobody did anything intentionally wrong, thus the state has no responsibility.

It's funny, because even if I, an ordinary person, unintentionally break a law, I may still be subject to the consequences.
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on March 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


>It's funny, because even if I, an ordinary person, unintentionally break a law, I may still be subject to the consequences.

That's by no means a given - intent is usually necessary to establish guilt - but it's a very complicated area.
posted by Devonian at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was just excellent. He didn't just apologize, he also explained why his younger self made the decision, how he came to them, and how he came to realize he was wrong.

That's judicious, insightful reasoning and the kind of thinking we need on the bench.

(If he'd just invoked deity, saying it came to him in prayer, they probably would be okay with it in Louisiana.)
posted by mephron at 10:18 AM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


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."

This is part of what bothers me about the justice system. Cases should not be "won" or "lost," they should be "resolved." The idea that the whole trial process is a game in which opposing sides are required to use every method at their disposal to beat the other side leads to this kind of "Woo! We won!" thinking, which doesn't serve justice or the law one bit.
posted by xingcat at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


Apologies are the first step. Now make amends.
posted by srboisvert at 10:32 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nobody has any business trying a death case.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:45 AM on March 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


Apologies are the first step. Now make amends.

He's doing that. He's not only publicly admitted his mistakes and why he made them, he's calling on the state to award Ford compensation for wrongful imprisonment. He could have just admitted this and went on, but now he's using his mistake to very publicly challenge the fact that not only was the wrong decision made, but that Mr. Ford didn't even have the dignity of a financial award for the state's mistake. I think Stroud is doing all that we can really expect from a prosecutor 30 years down the road.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


When a conviction is overturned, a new trial should immediately start. If the prosecutor is found beyond a reasonable doubt to have known that the conviction was bullshit, he or she serves out the remainder of the sentence visited upon the wrongfully convicted, in the same prison (or an equivalent one, if the wrongfully convicted person is of a different sex). If the wrongfully convicted was sentenced to death, it is commuted to life without the possibility of parole.

If prison is a deterrent to people who aren't good at judging the results of their actions in the moment, then just imagine how good a deterrent it would be for people who go to law school and have plenty of time to consider whether they're trying the right person.
posted by Etrigan at 11:32 AM on March 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think it's great that the prosecutor is owning up to his wrongdoing. I'm unable to get the page to load as well, so I'll just have to assume it says that the prosecutor who feels so terribly about what happened to Ford is today donating his time to make sure this type of thing ceases to happen in the future, and has set up a trust using his own money to make sure Ford and his dependents live out their remaining years in absolutely no less an amount of comfort that he himself is living. The article/video does say something along those lines, right?
posted by item at 11:49 AM on March 20, 2015


He's doing that. He's not only publicly admitted his mistakes and why he made them, he's calling on the state to award Ford compensation for wrongful imprisonment. He could have just admitted this and went on, but now he's using his mistake to very publicly challenge the fact that not only was the wrong decision made, but that Mr. Ford didn't even have the dignity of a financial award for the state's mistake. I think Stroud is doing all that we can really expect from a prosecutor 30 years down the road.

No he is calling for others to make amends. I get that this is a good thing and that he is doing good but you don't get to just apologize and walk away when you do shit like this. He needs to personally make amends. He even points out at the end of the article that he doesn't deserve the mercy of providence.

He needs to make amends himself. Sure the state should compensate the victim obviously but so should he. Perhaps the earnings from the time he spent prosecuting the case would be just.

He can still earn his redemption.
posted by srboisvert at 11:53 AM on March 20, 2015


Lemurrhea: "Nobody has any business trying a death case."

I, as Obama would say, have evolved on the death penalty. I can remember arguing *for* it here on Mefi sometime in the last decade and a half. Because, I understand the vigilante spirit behind the feeling that there should be "justice", old style, biblical justice, for some crimes. I get the need for revenge, I totally do.

And I firmly believe, deep in my heart, that there really are some people who should not be suffered to live. But...even if I feel that way, I do not have the moral authority to order the death of someone else, and I do not believe that we should give that right to a governing body/state/system. Especially when that system is provably corrupt, inaccurate, unfair and unjust. And most especially since executions have become exercises in medical experimentation. The botched executions in the last 18 months should have been enough to stop executions across the board.

I can no longer support the death penalty, in any cases. No matter how much our emotions may demand vengeance, our ethics...our very humanity demands that we cannot allow the state to kill in our name any longer.
posted by dejah420 at 11:53 AM on March 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


There are so many things wrong with the death penalty, but I'm actually surprised states don't take death off the books just to save significant money for every would-be death penalty case. But when prisons are run for serious profit, I think this might be a losing tactic.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:13 PM on March 20, 2015


And I firmly believe, deep in my heart, that there really are some people who should not be suffered to live. But...even if I feel that way, I do not have the moral authority to order the death of someone else, and I do not believe that we should give that right to a governing body/state/system.
Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.
posted by Talez at 12:28 PM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


He was the very model of a modern American prosecutor.

I had jury duty on a non-capital murder case; after a hung jury was declared, we jurors had a chat with the prosecutor who explained that she knew the defendant didn't do it... it was his brother; but after the best witness misidentified the wrong brother (in a photo lineup that never should have included the innocent brother), the only way to get at the guilty brother was to force the innocent brother to turn on him - which he didn't do, lying on the stand. So, she promised a retrial and, I later learned, convicted him real good. Another WIN for American Justice.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I had jury duty on a non-capital murder case; after a hung jury was declared, we jurors had a chat with the prosecutor who explained that she knew the defendant didn't do it... it was his brother; but after the best witness misidentified the wrong brother (in a photo lineup that never should have included the innocent brother), the only way to get at the guilty brother was to force the innocent brother to turn on him - which he didn't do, lying on the stand. So, she promised a retrial and, I later learned, convicted him real good. Another WIN for American Justice.

That's a major breach of ethics and the prosecutor needs to be reported to the state bar right now. Please do it.
posted by Talez at 1:28 PM on March 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


If the prosecutor is found beyond a reasonable doubt to have known that the conviction was bullshit, he or she serves out the remainder of the sentence visited upon the wrongfully convicted

I hear that making the engineers stand under newly constructed stone arches while the supports are removed has a salutory effect on their durability too!
posted by localroger at 1:29 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had jury duty on a non-capital murder case; after a hung jury was declared, we jurors had a chat with the prosecutor who explained that she knew the defendant didn't do it... it was his brother

this is an offense that would and should result in a disbarment of the prosecutor. if this actually happened, would you please tell us the name and location of the prosecutor? or at least the style of the case,the location, and the year?
posted by jayder at 2:19 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Talez: "I had jury duty on a non-capital murder case; after a hung jury was declared, we jurors had a chat with the prosecutor who explained that she knew the defendant didn't do it... it was his brother; but after the best witness misidentified the wrong brother (in a photo lineup that never should have included the innocent brother), the only way to get at the guilty brother was to force the innocent brother to turn on him - which he didn't do, lying on the stand. So, she promised a retrial and, I later learned, convicted him real good. Another WIN for American Justice.

That's a major breach of ethics and the prosecutor needs to be reported to the state bar right now. Please do it.
"

I am going to disagree with that to some extent. You are, of course, assuming that the prosecutor is somehow the captain of their own destiny and may have had a choice in the matter.
posted by Samizdata at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2015


Samizdata, as I understand it, prosecutors are enjoined by their professional codes of ethics from ever trying someone they know not to be guilty.

"Just following orders" has been soundly and permanently defeated as a defence, so yeah, they had a choice.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:31 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, under Ontario's Rules of Professional Conduct [pdf], 5.1-3 and the commentary makes clear that you have to disclose all relevant evidence. And 5.1-2(e) makes clear that you can't mislead a court when you know better, either on facts or law. I doubt we're different than anywhere in the US when it comes to criminal trials.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:52 PM on March 20, 2015



I had jury duty on a non-capital murder case; after a hung jury was declared, we jurors had a chat with the prosecutor who explained that she knew the defendant didn't do it... it was his brother; but after the best witness misidentified the wrong brother (in a photo lineup that never should have included the innocent brother), the only way to get at the guilty brother was to force the innocent brother to turn on him - which he didn't do, lying on the stand. So, she promised a retrial and, I later learned, convicted him real good. Another WIN for American Justice.

That's a major breach of ethics and the prosecutor needs to be reported to the state bar right now. Please do it.


What about going to the defense attorney with that information?
posted by TedW at 9:37 PM on March 20, 2015


, I would vote for this guy as judge

There's a big part of the problem right there. Voting for a judge, how utterly ridiculous and wrong.
posted by wilful at 10:30 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Voting for a judge, how utterly ridiculous and wrong.

Well when you get down to it every manner of picking human judges is going to be ridiculous and wrong. If you don't like voting it comes down to giving some other group or person the authority. That just regresses the question; who picks the pickers? Ultimately you have either elections or some stable body of elites. We have elections because the elites were rigging everything in their own favor.
posted by localroger at 7:08 AM on March 21, 2015


It doesn't simply regress the question. In most places, judges who are elected are also judges who have to run for re-election. When you are constantly accountable in that way for your job, it effects your job performance.
posted by parliboy at 7:35 AM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


We don't elect our judges in Canada. Nor our prosecutors. And we have far, far fewer (not zero; ask Guy Paul Morin for example) problems of this nature even accounting for the population difference.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:56 AM on March 21, 2015


Truthfully, I wish that judges and prosecutors were chosen by an electoral college of current judges. Although judges can be just as unprofessional, hind-bound, spiteful, and corrupt as everyone else, the idea of current doctors of law choosing those that represent the state sounds much more sane than having it appointed by a career politician or the public in general. If you made the final step of acceptance an okay from either the executive or the legislative, that would work too.

As for this case and personal responsibility, it seems that this prosecutor did nothing legally wrong and was carrying out his duties to the state diligently. However, the system that employed him, the system that used him as a weapon and rewarded him for certain behaviors is the real problem. It would be easier if it was just him, but the entire way we catch a suspect, ascertain guilt, and punish the guilty is warped. While imprisoning Stroud or docking his pay might feel good, what he's doing is challenging the system, which is far more valuable to the society as a whole. Not to give him a free pass but to keep a little perspective on it. Plus, you want to incentivize insiders to turn on a corrupt system and help build a better one.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:09 AM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


In most places, judges who are elected are also judges who have to run for re-election. When you are constantly accountable in that way for your job, it effects your job performance.

You seem to consider this a bug. A primary theory behind the modern experiment of democratic governance is that it is a feature, or at least a smaller bug than putting all the power in the hands of elites who will be tempted to use it to their own personal purposes.
posted by localroger at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2015


It is absolutely a bug for the judiciary to be answerable to the easily-swayed whims of the public rather than the facts of law. Again, Canada--which is right next door--doesn't elect our judges, and we don't seem to have problems with elites using appointments to the judiciary for their own personal purposes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:28 AM on March 22, 2015


It is absolutely a bug for the judiciary to be answerable to the easily-swayed whims of the public rather than the facts of law.

I'm not arguing that it's not a problem; it obviously is. But what's the alternative? We do it this way because history has shown that the other way of doing it (and there really only is one other way, in the big picture) always ends up being even worse.

Canada just hasn't made it to that bad endgame yet. But look at the US Supreme Court, which is appointed the other way, and what's been going on there the last few years. You can argue that that goes back to the election of the Presidents who nominate and the representatives who confirm those judges, but again, if we don't elect those people the alternative is that we draw them from what amounts to some kid of noble class. And that can last for a few generations, if your nobles take their duty seriously.

But eventually you get nobles who are selfish and venal, and with no higher authority to check them they make the whims of the public look like bedrock sensibility. The American Founders were watching France very closely as they drew up their theories. The public can be very stupid but at least it has to be stupid en masse, which takes more energy than corrupting an individual person.

And even in its greatest throes of stupidity the public is unlikely to sanction bankrupting the country building monuments like Varsailles while the public itself starves.
posted by localroger at 6:12 AM on March 22, 2015


So even though it works better in Canada it's actually worse because one day we might end up where you are? I'm relatively sure that the USA is unique among developed nations, or nearly so, in having so much of the justice system be elected positions. And we all seem to be doing much better than you guys.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:49 AM on March 22, 2015


And we all seem to be doing much better than you guys.

Well, so far. And yes, what might happen in the future is a consideration; it was a very important one to the people who decided to do it this way who were watching the other way of doing things fall apart all over Europe.

My point isn't that our system works well or even better; obviously it doesn't at the moment. But it wasn't an entirely stupid decision on the part of our founders and you still haven't posited an alternative that's proven to work any better over the long term. The anecdote that Canada's system is currently in a good state is meaningless in a world with 190 countries that has to function for more than three or four generations.
posted by localroger at 7:28 AM on March 22, 2015


We don't elect all judges at all levels in all jurisdictions.
posted by rtha at 8:53 AM on March 22, 2015


Well, so far.

I'm really sick to death of American Exceptionalism. Just because you folks have more or less totally failed at anything resembling a reasonable political and judicial system doesn't mean that everyone else will.

And even in its greatest throes of stupidity the public is unlikely to sanction bankrupting the country building monuments like Varsailles while the public itself starves.

Iraq. Afghanistan.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:02 PM on March 22, 2015


[This "America: bad or worst" thing is getting pretty far afield, please let that line of discussion rest at this point.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:24 PM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


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