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Prosecutor apologizes in heartfelt letter for helping send an innocent man to death row

A prosecutor apologized in a heartfelt letter for his leading role in sending an innocent man to death row for nearly 30 years, before his exoneration last year.

In the letter published by the Shreveport Times on Friday, prosecutor Marty Stroud repented for his careless attitude in the 1984 trial of Glenn Ford, a black man convicted by an all-white jury for the murder of Shreveport jeweler Isadore Rozeman.

"In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself," Stroud wrote. "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.'"

Stroud suggested he knew there was evidence that could've exonerated Ford at the time of the trial, but didn't speak up about it:

At the time this case was tried there was evidence that would have cleared Glenn Ford. The easy and convenient argument is that the prosecutors did not know of such evidence, thus they were absolved of any responsibility for the wrongful conviction.

I can take no comfort in such an argument. As a prosecutor and officer of the court, I had the duty to prosecute fairly. While I could properly strike hard blows, ethically I could not strike foul ones.

Part of my duty was to disclose promptly any exculpatory evidence relating to trial and penalty issues of which I was made aware. My fault was that I was too passive. I did not consider the rumors about the involvement of parties other than Mr. Ford to be credible, especially since the three others who were indicted for the crime were ultimately released for lack of sufficient evidence to proceed to the trial.

Stroud's experience ultimately led him to believe that Louisiana should compensate Ford for his wrongful incarceration — and that the death penalty is altogether unjust.

"Ford deserves every penny owed to him under the compensation statute," Stroud wrote. "This case is another example of the arbitrariness of the death penalty. I now realize, all too painfully, that as a young 33-year-old prosecutor, I was not capable of making a decision that could have led to the killing of another human being."

Ford is currently suing to get compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. He was released on March 11, 2014, after the state admitted that new evidence proved he wasn't the killer.

At least six people, including Ford, were exonerated from death sentences in 2014, according to a January report from the National Registry of Exonerations. A study published in PNAS in April 2014 found that at least 4 percent of people sentenced to death in the US are likely innocent. But if these cases don't get a re-examination, states could very well end up executing innocent people.

Read Marty Stroud's full letter.