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Prosecutor Apologizes For Putting Innocent Man On Death Row


In 1984, Marty Stroud was 33 years old. He was, as he writes now, arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. That year, 1984, Stroud was one of the prosecutors who sent a man named Glenn Ford to prison for a crime he didn't commit - the murder of the Shreveport, La. jeweler. Almost 30 years later, Glenn Ford was released from death row and declared an innocent man. He's now seeking compensation from the state of Louisiana for time lost. Marty Stroud recently wrote a three-page letter to the Shreveport Times - an apology to Mr. Ford. Marty Stroud joins us now to talk about that letter. Welcome to the program.

MARTY STROUD: Thank you.

CORNISH: Mr. Stroud, to begin, why did you write this letter?

STROUD: Well, I felt that Mr. Ford was entitled to be compensated for a crime that he did not commit.

CORNISH: At what point did you actually really feel guilt about what happened to Glenn Ford?

STROUD: I felt within four or five years of the verdict, I started to question the procedure. The fact that Mr. Ford was indigent, really had no defense. Attorneys were appointed who had never tried a capital case. And at the time, I was concerned about the process - that is the procedure by which he was convicted. And I felt and came to believe that the procedure was fatally flawed and that he should receive a new trial.

CORNISH: In the years since, as you've been an attorney, you've also argued in cases on the side of the defense, right, including a death penalty case? How did that point of view change your mind and have you rethink the death penalty altogether?

STROUD: Well, when I was young, I was foolish. And I thought that when cases were brought to you, that they were properly made, that I was on God's side, that I was a Fire-Eater, that I believed that my job was to put criminals away and those that deserved the death penalty should get it and should be executed. Over the years, my view changed. I've come to the conclusion - it's my opinion and my opinion only - that there is no system that can be effective in order to ensure that only the guilty are convicted and the innocent go free.

CORNISH: Mr. Stroud, do you have a copy of your letter on hand?

STROUD: Yes, ma'am.

CORNISH: I was wondering if you could read the very last paragraph, the last three sentences or so?

STROUD: (Reading) I end with the hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford. But I'm also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it. Yours very truly.

CORNISH: Mr. Stroud, this is a very lengthy letter. What would you say to Glenn Ford if you were able to speak with him in person?

STROUD: Well, I would apologize to Mr. Ford. I would wish him well and wish him the best in his efforts to get compensation and be compensated for the years that he's been deprived of. I would - I believe it's a horror story from beginning to end, and I played a part in that. I would ask for his forgiveness. However, if he did not offer forgiveness, I really couldn't blame him. And that's what I think I was getting at at the last of three sentences of my letter.

CORNISH: Well, Marty Stroud, thank you so much for speaking with us.

STROUD: It was my pleasure.

CORNISH: Marty Stroud, he wrote a letter to the editor in The Shreveport Times apologizing for the role he played as a prosecutor in the imprisonment of Glenn Ford. After 30 years behind bars, Glenn Ford was released from death row and declared an innocent man. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.