NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court won’t consider whether the family of a man who was exonerated of murder after nearly 30 years on death row is due compensation for wrongful conviction.
That leaves intact rulings against Glenn Ford, who died of lung cancer in June 2015, nearly a year after he was cleared of killing Shreveport jeweler Isadore Rozeman and released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
A state district judge had ruled in March 2015 that Ford couldn’t get compensation because trial evidence showed that he was involved in lesser related crimes.
The court’s decision on the state law can’t be appealed to federal court, Ford’s attorney, Kristin Wenstrom of the Innocence Project New Orleans, wrote in an email Tuesday.
However, wrote Andrea Armstrong, who is in charge of Ford’s estate, “it is not the end of the story: Glenn has two federal lawsuits seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction and the way he was treated in prison.”
“Although the state released Glenn Ford after 30 years of wrongful incarceration, the state refuses to be held accountable for — or to even otherwise acknowledge — the gross injustice done to Glenn and his surviving family,” Armstrong wrote.
Ruth Wisher, spokeswoman for Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, said in a statement emailed Monday, “All along, we believed that Mr. Ford was not innocent of the criminal activity that took place on the day of Mr. Rozeman’s murder. We are pleased with today’s Louisiana Supreme Court decision affirming our position and agreeing with the Second Circuit’s decision to not compensate Mr. Ford.”
Although Ford had been convicted of a single offense — capital murder —District Judge Katherine Dorroh said trial evidence showed that did nothing to stop a holdup that he knew was being planned, and also tried to destroy evidence by selling stolen items and trying to sell the murder weapon.
The high court refused without comment Monday to hear the case. Chief Justice Bernette Johnson voted to hear it.
That refusal leaves in place Dorroh’s ruling, which was upheld by a state appeal court panel and reaffirmed in May by a five-judge panel.
Judge Joe Bleich wrote in May that the state compensation law specifically excludes compensation for someone who committed “any crime based upon the same set of facts used in his original conviction,” and lets the judge consider “any relevant evidence regardless of whether it was admissible in, or excluded from, the criminal trial.”
The law also requires the exonerated person to prove innocence of any related crimes, he wrote.
Dorroh found that trial evidence showed that Ford had at least possessed stolen items and been an accessory after the fact to armed robbery, Bleich wrote.
“In her thoughtful and thorough written opinion, the trial judge enumerated the evidence that established the elements of each of those crimes. In addition, the trial judge concluded that Ford was also a principal to the armed robbery,” he wrote.
He noted that only 26 other states and the District of Columbia have prisoner compensation laws, and California is the only one that pays without requiring the person to prove innocence of any related criminal activity.
An attempt to revise Louisiana’s law was defeated in the Legislature this spring. Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, said at the time that he will bring up the bill again next year.