The ghost of Glenn Ford will forever haunt former Louisiana prosecutor Marty Stroud. Failing to learn from Stroud’s sad example, prosecutors in Bowie County, Texas, relentlessly press to execute a potentially innocent man, despite evidence that his conviction is tainted by allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and false testimony.
Don’t know who Marty Stroud is? He’s a former prosecutor in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. He sent an innocent man to Louisiana’s death row.
30 Years on Death Row in Angola Prison for a Crime he Didn’t Commit
Glenn Ford was imprisoned on death row in Louisiana’s infamous Angola Prison for thirty years before he was exonerated in 2014. Ford died this past June of lung cancer. His brief period of freedom was consumed with his futile struggle against a voracious, terminal illness.
Stroud was the lead prosecutor in the 1983 murder case against Ford. The prosecutor has admitted that he possessed exculpatory evidence that would have proved Ford’s innocence. He did not disclose it to Ford’s attorneys. By his own admission on 60 Minutes on October 11, 2015, Stroud said he was an arrogant, narcissistic prosecutor who was “caught up in the culture of winning “and that he celebrated Ford’s conviction and death sentence because winning was more important than seeking the truth.
Prosecutor is Servant of the Law
Eighty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court said a prosecutor “is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.”
Julius Murphy and Bowie County, Texas…
Apparently Bowie County District Attorney Jerry D. Rochelle and prosecutors Bobby Lockhart, Alvin A. Smith, and Kristie Wright do not watch 60 Minutes and know very little about Supreme Court history.
Each in their own way is determined to see that Julius Murphy is put to death on November 3, 2015, in the Texas death chamber at Huntsville. Murphy’s case is remarkably similar to the Glenn Ford case.
The Murder of Jason Erie
Murphy was convicted in August 1998 for the capital murder of Jason Erie. There was no physical evidence to connect him to the Erie murder. Trial prosecutors Lockhart, Smith and Wright relied upon two fact witnesses—Javarrow Young and Christina Davis—and Murphy’s own statement taken from him while he was extremely intoxicated on alcohol and drugs to secure the death penalty verdict.
Young did not witness the crime, nor was he present when the murder was actually carried out during a robbery behind a service station. He was with Murphy and Chris Solomon when the group, accompanied by several other associates, pulled into the service station. Murphy and Solomon went behind the station where Erie was murdered. Young said it was Solomon’s idea to rob Erie.
Young testified at Murphy’s trial that he saw Erie lying by his car just as an ambulance passed. He said he and several companions got into his truck and chased the ambulance down. Young the EMS people about Erie’s body lying next to the car. He followed the ambulance back to the crime scene. When the police arrived, Young gave them a false name and told them only that he was “passing through” when he saw Erie’s body.
Upon further investigation, investigators learned that Young knew more about the Erie murder than he was saying. After detectives told him that they heard he had been with Murphy and Solomon before the murder and was nearby when it was carried out, Young broke down and implicated Murphy and Solomon in the Erie murder.
Christina Davis was Murphy’s girlfriend. She was also with the group when Solomon came up with the idea to rob Erie. She said after Murphy and Solomon exited the vehicle, she put her head down and kept it down four or five minutes before she heard a gunshot. She did not see the actual murder. She could only say that Murphy left the vehicle with Solomon intent on “jacking” Erie.
Convicted and Sentenced to Death
Both Murphy and Solomon were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Since Murphy’s conviction, credible evidence has been developed that trial prosecutors threatened both Young and Davis with prosecution (Young for murder and Davis for conspiracy to commit murder) if they did not testify against Murphy and promised them leniency if they did so. The three trial prosecutors did not disclose this obvious Brady/Giglio material to the defense.
Prosecutorial Misconduct and Brady Violations
DA Jerry Rochelle is aware of the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct but nonetheless is pushing to see Murphy executed.
In sworn affidavits, Young said “the prosecutor threatened me with a murder charge and they said they had enough evidence on me if I did not testify for them against Julius.” Similarly, Davis stated in her affidavit that the prosecutor “told me that if I did not testify they would charge me with conspiracy to commit murder.” Davis said it was only after she testified that the prosecutors told her “for the first time that I would not be charged with any crime.”
Young’s affidavit also revealed that he testified falsely against Murphy. He states in his affidavit that he “did not tell the jury the whole truth when he testified at Murphy’s trial. What he left out of the “whole truth” was that Chris Solomon, not Murphy, killed Erie, a critically important fact that he never told the police about. Attorneys now representing Murphy charge that this “bombshell” squares with the fact that earlier this year Young told a third party that “he had made a deal and did whatever he had to do to keep himself out of trouble, including lying during his testimony at Mr. Murphy’s trial.”
Execute them all, Let God Sort Them Out
DA Rochelle should be in court asking that Murphy’s execution be stayed until he can, first, determine whether the trial prosecutors engaged in Brady/Giglio misconduct, and, second, whether Young did in fact testify falsely at Murphy’s trial.
Caddo Parish prosecutor Marty Stroud faced the same dilemma—he had credible evidence that two brothers actually committed the murder for which Glenn Ford was convicted, but he did nothing about it. Glenn Ford paid a terrible price for Stroud’s callous attitude towards Justice. But, Stroud’s soul has also paid its price for his evil decision, as can be seen from his painful demeanor during the 60 Minutes interview.
Marty Stroud has not only admitted to his misconduct in the Ford case but has asked the Louisiana State Bar to discipline him for it.
In stark contrast, in Bowie County, Rochelle and the three trial attorneys are stonewalling in the Murphy case. They are relentlessly pushing for the potentially innocent man to be executed, perhaps to quieten the serious allegations of prosecutorial misconduct now swirling about the case. Under these circumstances, Murphy’s execution would be a travesty.
Let us be loud and clear: Julius Murphy should not be put to death when the only two witnesses who testified against him against now say, in sworn statements, that they were threatened into testifying against Murphy, one even going as far as saying he deliberately lied.
Texas’ Questionable History of Death Penalty
Texas has a modern history of putting people to death when there has been credible evidence of their innocence.
We don’t know what role Murphy played in the Jason Erie robbery/murder. What we do know is that the prosecution of Murphy was flawed and is now rife with strong evidence of prosecutorial misconduct—serious enough to question the integrity of his conviction.
At the very least, Julius Murphy should have his execution stayed until he can have an evidentiary hearing on these issues that raise grave concerns about the legitimacy of his conviction and death sentence.
NOTE: The background facts of the Murphy case used in this piece were drawn from an Application for Postconviction Writ of Habeas Corpus prepared by Murphy’s post-conviction attorneys: Sarah Cummings with the law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright, US LLP, Dallas, Texas, and Catherine E. Stetson and Kathryn Marshall Ali with the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP, Washington, D.C. This application can be accessed at: