Louisiana news briefs
Man who spent decades on La. death row is freed
ANGOLA (AP) — A man who spent nearly 26 years on death row in Louisiana walked free of prison Tuesday, hours after a judge approved the state’s motion to vacate the man’s murder conviction in the 1983 killing of a jeweler.
Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988 in connection with the death of 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler and watchmaker for whom Ford had done occasional yard work. Ford had always denied killing Rozeman.
Ford walked out the maximum security prison at Angola on Tuesday afternoon, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Ford said he does harbor some resentment at being wrongly jailed: “Yeah, cause, I’ve been locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do.”
“I can’t go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40 stuff like that,” he added.
Ford was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in 1984 and sentenced to death.
“We are very pleased to see Glenn Ford finally exonerated, and we are particularly grateful that the prosecution and the court moved ahead so decisively to set Mr. Ford free,” said a statement from Gary Clements and Aaron Novod, the attorneys for Ford from the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana.
They said Ford’s trial had been “profoundly compromised by inexperienced counsel and by the unconstitutional suppression of evidence, including information from an informant.” They also cited what they said was a suppressed police report related to the time of the crime and evidence involving the murder weapon.
Tthere are 83 men and two women serving death sentences in Louisiana, according to Laborde.
A Louisiana law entitles those who have served time but are later exonerated to receive compensation. It calls for payments of $25,000 per year of wrongful incarceration up to a maximum of $250,000, plus up to $80,000 for loss of “life opportunities.”
Police investigating fatal shooting in New Iberia
NEW IBERIA (AP) — Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputies are searching for a suspect in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old New Iberia man
Lt. Anthony Green said Uriah Joseph was shot multiple times about 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Green says a warrant for second-degree murder has been issued for a suspect in the case.
He said paramedics were unable to revive Joseph at the scene.
Lawmakers question $10M cost in murder case
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Lawmakers reviewing the state budget Tuesday were surprised to learn that Louisiana paid more than $10 million for the trials of five men for the murder of a Louisiana State Penitentiary guard.
The issue came up as the House Appropriations Committee reviewed the proposed budget for the Louisiana Public Defender Board next year, which includes $479,000 to cover the costs of appeals in the cases.
Six inmates were accused in the December 1999 beating and stabbing death of David Knapps during a failed escape attempt at the prison known as Angola. One inmate was shot and killed, another pleaded guilty and the remaining four were convicted.
Health insurance sign-ups near 46,000 in Louisiana
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Nearly 46,000 Louisiana residents signed up for private insurance coverage through the federally-run marketplace by last month’s end, a steadily-growing enrollment rate that still falls short of an Obama administration target.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the latest enrollment data across states Tuesday, covering five months of sign-ups under the government-subsidized private insurance program created under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul.
By March 1, Louisiana had 45,561 people who selected a marketplace plan, an addition of about 12,700 enrollees. But that was less than two-thirds of the Obama administration’s goal of enrolling 75,200 by that point.
The enrollment period ends this month.
The marketplace offers health insurance options for people who are uninsured or who currently pay for individual policies, rather than getting insurance through their jobs. Subsidies are available to low- and middle-income families.
Four companies are offering insurance options through the federally-run marketplace in Louisiana, though one insurer is only selling marketplace coverage in a single parish.
Eighty-seven percent of Louisiana residents who registered for insurance have received federal subsidies to help cover costs. Nearly two-thirds of the enrollees have chosen “silver” plans, which are considered mid-level in price and coverage.
Few lawmakers pledge Medicaid opposition
BATON ROUGE (AP) — It’s been slow-going for a national tea party group trying to get state lawmakers to pledge their opposition to Democrats’ efforts to expand Louisiana’s Medicaid program.
The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February. A month later, Phillip Joffrion, director of the AFP state chapter, says he has over a dozen signatures.
That’s not enough to defeat a Medicaid expansion bill.
But Joffrion says he expects to get pledges from many more lawmakers now that the legislative session has opened.
He says AFP has signatures from key legislative leaders, including Senate President John Alario and Rep. Scott Simon, chairman of the House health care committee.
Plus, lawmakers rejected the Medicaid expansion last year, and it’s strongly opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Federal charges in New Orleans parade shootings
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two brothers who already face state charges in a shooting spree that left 20 people hurt at a Mother’s Day parade in 2013 have been indicted on federal charges — along with seven other people allegedly connected to the case.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office said an indictment was unsealed Tuesday charging 25-year-old Shawn Scott, 20-year-old Akein Scott and seven others in a conspiracy involving violations of federal controlled substances and gun control acts. Polite said the indictment specifically charges Shawn and Akein Scott with firing their guns during the Mother’s Day neighborhood “second-line” parade on May 12.
Prosecutors say the nine people indicted are members of the Frenchmen-Derbigny gang.
Also named in the indictment, dated Feb. 27, are Travis Scott, 29; Stanley Scott, 23; Jeremiah Jackson, 23; Gralen Benson, 26; Brian Benson, 24; Crystal Scott, 32; and Richmond Smith, 25. All nine are named in a count alleging conspiracy to distribute substances including heroin and crack cocaine. All except Brian Benson and Crystal Scott also are named in various other firearms and drug counts connected to the alleged conspiracy.
“This indictment is another clear signal that the rules have changed — there are real consequences for violence in our city,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release.
Police said 19 people were hit by gunshots and one person was hurt in the chaos that ensued after gunfire erupted at last year’s festive neighborhood parade organized by the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club and attended by hundreds in the city’s 7th Ward neighborhood. It was a traditional “second line” parade, where watchers often join in behind the participants to form a second line of marchers.
A security video captured one person, identified by police later as Akein Scott, appearing to fire toward the parade and fleeing as members of the crowd fell or ran. Akein and Shawn Scott were arrested within days and bonds were set in excess of $17 million. Each was charged with 20 counts of attempted second-degree murder and other charges.
Convictions on a state charge of attempted second-degree murder carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison. Polite’s news release said the maximum penalty upon conviction on the federal drug conspiracy charge in the indictment announced Tuesday is a life sentence.
Polite said the indictments resulted from an effort by state, local and federal authorities working as part of the city’s Multi-Agency Gang Unit. New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has credited the collaboration with contributing to a drop last year in the number of murders in the city.
“Following one of the most despicable shootings in our city’s recent history, our federal, state and local law enforcement partners collaborated in an unprecedented fashion to identify the allegedly responsible individuals,” Polite said in a joint news release with city police and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Police said ATF agents were the lead agents in the case.
“The collaboration of all partners in the Multi-Agency Gang Unit has proven to be undeniably effective in getting some of the city’s most violent criminals out of our neighborhoods,” Serpas said in the news release.