On November 5, 1983, 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a jeweler and watchmaker, was found shot to death in his shop in Shreveport, Louisiana. His pockets were pulled and items were missing from the store.
One of the first people to be questioned was 34-year-old Glenn Ford, an affable man who did yard work for Rozeman. Ford denied being involved in the crime, though he admitted he had been near the store at some point earlier in the day—and witnesses told police they saw him near the store.
In February 1984, items from Rozeman’s store turned up in a pawnshop and a handwriting analyst said that Ford had signed the pawn slips. Marvella Brown told police that her boyfriend, Jake Robinson, Jake’s brother, Henry, and Ford were at her house on the day of the crime and left together after Ford asked “if they were going.” Brown said Ford was carrying a brown paper bag. When the men returned later that day, Ford was carrying a different bag and had a gun in his waistband. Jake Robinson also was carrying a gun. Brown said Jake showed her a bag containing watches and rings.
Ford, along with Jake and Henry Robinson and a fourth man, George Starks, were charged with capital murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery in February 1984.
In November 1984, Ford went to trial first in Caddo Parish District Court. Prosecutors used their jury challenges to eliminate prospective jurors who were black and an all-white jury was empaneled. Ford was represented by two appointed defense lawyers—neither of whom had ever handled a criminal trial and one of whom had never handled a criminal case of any sort.
Brown fell apart on the witness stand and said on cross-examination that detectives had fabricated her responses and she had lied in her testimony. She said she had been shot in the head earlier in her life and the bullet was never removed causing difficulty with thinking and hearing.
Several witnesses testified that they saw Ford near the victim’s store on the day of the shooting, but no one testified that they saw the crime.
A gunshot residue expert testified for the prosecution that after Ford had voluntarily come in for questioning, he recovered gunshot residue on Ford’s hands.
A fingerprint analyst said he lifted a single fingerprint from a paper bag found at the scene. He said that the print contained a “whorl” type pattern and that Ford had such a pattern, while the Robinson brothers did not.
Dr. George McCormick, Caddo Parish coroner, testified that he had analyzed the scene of the crime, including the position of Rozeman’s body and a duffel bag found next to the body with a bullet hole in it. McCormick said he concluded that the victim was shot by someone who held the gun in his left hand. Ford is left-handed and the Robinsons are right-handed.
McCormick also said that Rozeman had been dead for as long as two hours by the time the body was discovered—a time when witnesses said they saw Ford near the store.
Ford testified in his own behalf and denied involvement in the crime. He admitted selling items to the pawnshop, but said he got them from the Robinson brothers.
On December 5, 1984 the jury convicted Ford of capital murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Following the jury’s recommendation, Ford was sentenced to death on February 26, 1985. After Ford was convicted and sentenced, the prosecution dismissed the charges against the Robinson brothers and Starks.
Ford’s appeals were unsuccessful until 2000 when the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a hearing on a post-conviction petition for a new trial filed by the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana.
At the hearing in 2004, a defense expert testified that McCormick’s attempt to reconstruct the crime had no connection to known facts and was speculation at best. Another defense expert said that the gunshot residue evidence was meaningless because it was gathered more than a day after the crime and that Ford could have easily picked up the residue merely by being in a police station where such residue is extremely common. Another defense expert said that the prosecution’s fingerprint expert misidentified the fingerprint on the paper bag and that it could have been left by the Robinson brothers.
Ford’s lawyers at trial testified that they were very inexperienced in criminal cases and had no training in capital defense. One of the lawyers, who specialized in oil and gas law, had never tried a case to a jury—either civil or criminal—and the extent of his prior criminal work was handling two guilty pleas. The other lawyer was out of law school less than two years and was working at an insurance firm handling personal injury cases.
Both said they were unaware they could seek court funding for defense experts and didn’t hire any because they couldn’t afford to pay out of their own pockets. Both were unaware of how to subpoena witnesses from out of state and so Ford’s family members, who lived in California, did not testify for Ford at the guilt or punishment phase of the trial.
The defense presented numerous police reports that had never been disclosed to the defense. The reports showed that Shreveport police had received two tips from informants implicating only Jake and Henry Robinson in the robbery and murder. Other police reports showed that some detectives had falsely testified at Ford’s trial about statements Ford made during his interrogation—testimony that the prosecution should have realized was false, the defense claimed. Moreover, other police reports that were withheld from the defense contained conflicting statements by Marvella Brown and by the witnesses who said they saw Ford near the store at the time of the crime. The reports could have been used to impeach the witnesses’ testimony at trial.
The post-conviction motion was denied. In 2012, the Capital Post-Conviction Project filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. While the petition was pending, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office began re-investigating the case and in 2013 disclosed that an informant told authorities that Jake Robinson had admitted shooting Rozeman.
In March 2014, the prosecution filed a motion to vacate Ford’s conviction and death sentence in light of the newly discovered evidence from the informant. On March 11, 2014, a judge vacated Ford’s convictions and the prosecution dismissed the charges. Ford was then released.
– Maurice Possley