|A.M. "Marty" Stroud|
When it came to selecting this year's recipient of the award, Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the organization, found the perfect honoree in Shreveport attorney A.M. "Marty" Stroud III, who has become an outspoken advocate against injustices within the legal system. He will be recognized for his achievements at a Tuesday luncheon at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
"We try each year to bring unusual voices to the event," said Armbrust, who has been with the innocence project for the past 11 years.
Armbrust said she looks for honorees who talk about important matters within the legal system, and this year she thought it would be a good idea to honor a prosecutor.
"It's really important to give credit to prosecutors who have done the right thing," Armbrust said. "Marty really stood out and - to some degree - Marty's done things that were a lot harder than others."
Stroud, who works for the Shreveport firm Barham Warner Stroud Carmouche, was the lead prosecutor in the 1984 first-degree murder trial of Glenn Ford. Ford was sentenced to death for the November 1983 death of Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler. In March 2014, Ford was released from prison when the state admitted new evidence that proved Ford was not the killer.
Taking full responsibility, Stroud issued a public apology for his role in sending Ford to death row. He has since become an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and proponent of dialogue on the injustices that exist in the state's criminal justice system.
"I never thought the letter would go as far as it did - I was just concerned about the Glenn Ford case," said Stroud, who believes the situation has opened up other questions about the criminal justice system, which he is glad to see happen. Stroud believes there are many more problems in the criminal justice system in Louisiana. He said the more people are educated, the better the system can become. With more voices speaking up and more group discussions taking place, he believes things are moving in the right direction.
"The compass is turning. I think we are starting to move in the right direction, slowly but surely," Stroud said.
The attorney said he was humbled when he heard he was being offered the prestigious recognition from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.
|Glenn Ford, minutes after he was released from prison.|
After receiving the award, Stroud hopes to continue helping affect changes in the system that he believes are stacked against defendants - especially the poor.
"We should have less people locked up. A lot of reform needs to be taken. It's going to take the citizens of the community to get involved," said Stroud, who believes issues surrounding officer-involved shootings and the high rates of incarceration in the state of Louisiana are issues ripe for conversation in the community.
Stroud wants to advocate against the look of hopelessness in the eyes of people who are incarcerated and don't believe they ever have the chance for reprieve or redemption.
Armbrust said Stroud stands out in a time when people are less likely to admit fault and take full responsibility for their errors.
In the annals of criminal justice and innocence projects.the outcome of the Glenn Ford case will likely prove to be Stroud's most revered legacy.
"He did more than just say he was wrong - he apologized, explained what he did wrong, and explains to people how to avoid it," Armbrust said. "It takes real guts and we need to see more of that in our system."
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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde