Angola

Exonerated convict Glenn Ford succumbs to lung cancer at 65


June 29, 2015

Glenn Ford, who spent nearly 30 years on Angola’s death row for a murder that prosecutors eventually conceded he did not commit, died in New Orleans early Monday (June 29), supporters announced. He was 65.

Ford learned he had lung cancer shortly after his release from Angola on March 11, 2014. A news release from Ford’s supporters said he died at 2:11 a.m., having been “surrounded by friends, loved ones and family in recent days.”

Ford, who was born in Shreveport on Oct. 22, 1949, was convicted of the 1983 murder of 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler and watchmaker for whom Ford had done occasional yard work. Ford had always denied killing Rozeman, and on March 10, 2014, he was exonerated of the crime when the state vacated his conviction.

State District Judge Ramona Emanuel voided Ford’s conviction and sentence based on new information corroborating his claim that he was not present or involved in Rozeman’s death, Ford’s attorneys said.

Ford was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in 1984 and sentenced to death. He spent 29 years, three months and five days in solitary confinement on Angola’s death row. At the time of his release, Ford was the longest-serving death row inmate in the United States, supporters said.

The final 15 months of Ford’s life were spent outside prison walls but not without challenges.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office filed a petition to deny Ford state-mandated compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment, arguing  Ford failed to meet the law’s “factually innocent” clause. The provision requires petitioners to have not committed the crime for which they were originally convicted as well as “any crime based upon the same set of facts” used in the original conviction.

First Judicial District Court Judge Katherine Clark Dorroh sided with Caldwell in a ruling three months ago, deciding Ford was aware of the plan to rob Rozeman and failed to stop it, and took and sold items stolen during the robbery. The judge also ruled Ford tried to find buyers for the weapon used in Rozeman’s murder, and that he tried to hinder the police investigation by initially giving a false name for the man he later identified as Rozeman’s killer.

Ford died while awaiting the outcome of separate federal lawsuits aimed at securing compensation for his imprisonment and failing health, which he claimed resulted from insufficient medical treatment while in prison. Supporters said all he had received from the state before his death was $20 for a bus ride home from prison.

Supporters said Ford is survived by “several children” who live in California, and “more than 10 grandchildren.”

A memorial service will be held at the Charbonnet Funeral Home at 1615 St. Philip St., but a date and time had not been immediately determined, supporters said. They asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Ford’s name to Resurrection After Exoneration at www.r-a-e.org.

Louisiana: To cut heat threat, air-conditioning proposed for Angola’s death row


february 18,2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The state corrections department said Monday the only way it can lower heat levels on Louisiana’s death row to a federal judge’s requirements is by installing air conditioning.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson ruled in December that death row gets so hot it violates U.S. constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

He demanded a plan that will cool the cells at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola so the heat index never goes above 88 degrees, a plan that state prison officials filed Monday with the court.

Windows and fans are currently the primary sources of ventilation on death row, which was built in 2006.

The heat remediation proposal submitted by the Department of Corrections and the Angola prison would involve buying air conditioning units and a climate monitoring system for the cells.

“The heat and humidity sensors will transmit their readings to the building’s existing Johnson Control energy management system every 15 minutes. The system is capable of producing graphs showing temperature/humidity conditions over any time period,” James Hilburn, a lawyer for the state, wrote in a document filed with the plan.

The 22-page plan, devised by an outside engineering consultant, didn’t include a price tag. Estimates during the trial ranged from $550,000 to as much as $2 million to install air conditioning on the death row tiers.

Jackson said he wouldn’t consider cost as a factor in his review of the plan.

Lawyers for condemned killers Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee argued the heat could worsen the men’s health conditions, which include high blood pressure and other ailments.

Prison officials said the conditions might be uncomfortable during the hottest summer months, but they are safe. They said the inmates have access to medical care and none of the three plaintiffs have ever been diagnosed with adverse heat reactions.

In his December ruling, Jackson said the heat data collected by a court-ordered contractor in July and August showed that inmates housed in the death row cell tiers are subjected to temperatures and heat indices that are in the National Weather Service’s `caution,’ `extreme caution,’ and `danger’ zones. He said state prison officials must change those conditions.

The corrections department is appealing Jackson’s ruling, but wasn’t able to postpone filing the cooling plan. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused last week to order a stay in the case, saying it was premature.

But the appeals court cautioned Jackson about requiring the Angola penitentiary to make the changes it will propose in its plan while the appeal was pending.

Jackson traveled to Angola, 60 miles north of Baton Rouge, to check out the cell blocks for himself before issuing his ruling.

The federal judge also is considering ordering sanctions against attorneys for the state, questioning whether they “conducted themselves with honesty and candor” during the court proceedings and trial last year. A hearing on that issue is set for March 12.
(Source: AP)

There’s no real argument for the death penalty by James Varney “opinion”


October 13, 2012 http://www.nola.com/

Three stories — or, more accurately, two stories and a column — have led to thoughts about that ever contentious issue, the death penalty.

The first was a justice corkscrew at Tulane and Broad detailed by reporter John Simerman, a tale of shifting heroes and villains. In it, a rapist was briefly represented by the Innocence Project, a prominent arm of the anti-death penalty movement that has a strong case — namely, not every person on death row is guilty. Yet for reasons I can’t fully understand, I don’t find that reason to dispose of the death penalty. In part, this view may be colored by the Innocence Project’s paladin, Gary Scheck, who proclaims DNA evidence infallible. Which it may be, unless the blood of two murder victims is splattered all over O.J. Simpson’s car and house, in which case the DNA was planted or contaminated, as Scheck argued while springing The Juice.

I could have sworn O.J. did it, but that’s what high-priced defense lawyers do, I suppose, and it’s true Scheck’s work elsewhere has freed some innocent men from a living hell on death row.

In fact, the column in question is just that sort of case. Damon Thibodeaux was sent to Angola’s death row for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl under the Huey P. Long Bridge in 1996. Problem was, Thibodeaux didn’t do the crime and the Innocence Project helped prove it. Consequently, Thibodeaux was freed last month, and Denny LeBoeuf, formerly of the Death Penalty Resource Center in New Orleans, penned an op-ed about it for The Times-Picayune.

Thibodeaux’s case hinged on a bogus confession, a thing LeBoeuf pointed out talented law enforcement officers constantly guard against. Yet here we have a man — not guilty — dreading the lethal needles the state planned to plunge into his veins. He has escaped the jaws of death, which is all to the good, and whether one finds that alone reason to halt executions, there is no gainsaying the argument in favor of them is now diminished.

Thibodeaux can’t be made whole any more than the family of the girl who was killed, but does the death penalty’s existence mean similar tragedies won’t be visited on others? Here we turn to the death penalty’s supposed deterrent properties.

And here we turn to the other recent story, reporter Claire Galofaro’s magisterial three-part tale of the men accused of gunning down two St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s deputies and wounding two more. These alleged warped souls floated across the landscape from Nebraska to Louisiana like modern Charles Starkweathers, apparently willing, even eager, to kill.

Was the death penalty any sort of deterrent to these seething misfits? Has the fear of the death penalty — a sentence quite real in New Orleans and Louisiana — in any way crimped the appalling violence that sends so many New Orleanians to an early grave?

Well, it may have — that’s a hard one to gauge — but if it has, the impact has been marginal at best. The argument in favor of execution shrinks again.

So we appear to have but one plank left in favor of executions: the succor it may provide crime victims’ survivors. Here most of us, thankfully, are at sea because thus far we’ve been spared that nightmare.

That’s always seemed one of the best arguments in favor of execution while simultaneously the most disquieting. Where does the state — why does the state — become an instrument of retribution? There are Biblical passages supporting the death penalty as a legal recourse, but are these life and death matters not better left in God’s hands? Doesn’t the death penalty then skirt dangerously close to revenge killing, a thing civilized society should shun?

I don’t presume to speak for victims’ families, but years of covering capital cases and witnessing two executions at Angola have shown me that seeking a death for a death is not uniform among them. The quality of their mercy is an awesome, humbling thing, and one it seems to me should be embraced.

So what do we have: Guilty? Not always. Deterrent? Unlikely. Morally? Dubious. LeBoeuf is correct: the death penalty should be abolished.

••••••••

James Varney can be reached at jvarney@nola.com.