The prosecutor in the case of a man exonerated after spending nearly 30 years on death row has admitted that his own cowardice and neglect led to the man's wrongful conviction.
Stroud was the prosecutor in the case of Glenn Ford, an African-American man who was sentenced to death in 1983 for the murder of a Shreveport, Louisiana jeweler named Isadore Rozeman. Ford spent three decades on death row and in solitary confinement in Angola Prison, Louisiana's notoriously harsh maximum-security penitentiary, before new evidence led to his exoneration.
Another man eventually told a police informant that he had really killed the jeweler. This prompted a court review, which found that there was "credible evidence ... Glenn Ford was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman."
Stroud now admits that there were leads to other suspects in the case that he didn't follow up on, out of cowardice.
"I ended up, without anybody else's help, putting a man on death row who didn't belong there," he told 60 Minutes. "I mean at the end of the day, the beginning, end, middle, whatever you want to call it, I did something that was very, very bad."
Stroud says that since the court-appointed defense lawyers in the murder trial had never practiced criminal law, the cards were stacked against Ford from the beginning. "And at the time I saw nothing wrong with that," he admitted in the interview. "In fact, I snickered from time to time saying that this was going to be...we're going to get though this case pretty quickly."
Stroud also says that he and his colleagues intentionally excluded African-Americans from the jury. "I felt that they would not consider a death penalty where you had a black defendant and a white victim," he explained. "I was the person that made the final call on the case with respect to jurors. And I was – I was wrong."
Ford was finally released from prison in March 2014. Soon after his release, however, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He died in New Orleans on June 29, just over a year after he was set free.
Before Ford's death, Stroud went to see him to apologize. Asked by CBS if he forgave the prosecutor, Ford said he didn't think he ever could forgive him, but was trying to. "He didn't only take from me; he took from my whole family," he said. For his part, Stroud said that he doesn't think he deserves Ford's forgiveness.