Jeweller Isadore Rozeman was working in his antique store late one night, when a group of men entered through the back door, stole jewellery and knocked him to the floor. One of the assailants then mercilessly put a pistol to the back of his head and pulled the trigger, killing Mr Rozeman instantly.
Glenn Ford was charged with the heinous crime in 1984. He was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to death by a jury – remaining on death row for 30 years. There was just one thing: he didn’t commit the murder and was not even there.
The real murderer eventually confessed to a police informant in March 2014. A court reviewed the sketchy case against Ford, finding that there was no evidence that he had anything to do with the crime. Ford’s conviction was overturned and he was released from custody.
Not long after his release, Ford died penniless on the street.
The troubling thing about Ford’s case wasn’t just the wrongful conviction, but the lengths that the over-zealous prosecutor went to in order to secure a conviction.
Marty Stroud, the man who prosecuted Mr Ford, says that his mistakes ruined both of their lives. In an interview with CBS’s 60 minutes, Stroud said:
“I did something that was very, very bad. I was arrogant, narcissistic, caught up in the culture of winning.”
He admitted that there was no evidence that Ford was actually at the scene of the crime. He also admitted focusing solely upon Ford, and failing to make enquiries about who was actually involved in the crime.
Rather than investigate the night in question, the prosecution relied entirely upon the fact that Ford had pawned jewellery that he had stolen from Rozeman while undertaking gardening work.
Adding to the injustice, Ford was represented at trial by a court-appointed lawyer with a background in Wills and Estates, and with almost no experience as a criminal defence lawyer.
The lawyer did not have sufficient experience to defend a criminal trial, let alone a capital murder trial.
In those circumstances, the weak circumstantial case was enough for Ford to be convicted and sentenced to death – with jury deliberations taking less than 3 hours.
Stroud says that he knew Ford would be convicted despite the lack of evidence, admitting that he had “snickered from time to time saying … we’re going to get through this case pretty quickly.”
Prosecutors’ Duties in NSW
Prosecutors in the NSW District and Supreme Courts represent the Crown in criminal cases.
Their job is not to get a conviction at all costs – but to present all of the admissible evidence and help the court arrive at the truth.
Prosecutors are governed by a range of rules, including rule 29.1which says that they “must seek impartiality to have the whole of the relevant evidence placed intelligibly before the court”, and rule 29.2 which requires that: “[a] prosecutor must not press the prosecution’s case for a conviction beyond a full and firm presentation of that case.”
There are also guidelines that prosecutors are required to comply with, many of which are contained in the DPP’s “Standards of Professional Responsibility“.
Those Standards say that prosecutors should:
– Strive to be, and to be seen to be, consistent, independent and impartial;
– Always protect an accused person’s right to a fair trial, and in particular ensure that evidence favourable to the accused is disclosed in accordance with the law or the requirements of a fair trial;
– Always serve and protect the public interest; and
– Respect, protect and uphold the universal concept of human dignity and human rights.
Although these rules are supposed to safeguard defendants against wrongful convictions, there will always be over-zealous prosecutors who look upon convictions as a personal victory, even convictions that are based upon sketchy evidence.