By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A Louisiana man who has spent nearly three decades on death row walked free on Tuesday, after prosecutors asked a judge to set aside his first-degree murder conviction and death sentence, citing new evidence in the case that exonerated him.
Glenn Ford, 64, a black man, was convicted by an all-white jury in the 1983 robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman, a 56-year-old Shreveport watchmaker, who was found shot to death behind the counter of his jewelry shop.
Acting on new information that exonerated Ford, a judge in Shreveport ordered him released from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, where he has been held on death row since March 1985.
Ford was released late on Tuesday afternoon, local media reported.
"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 Gary Clements and Aaron Novod, attorneys for Ford from the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana.
Prison spokeswoman Pam Laborde said shortly before 5 p.m. local time that Ford was being processed, but she had not yet received confirmation of his release.
Ford, a California native who did occasional yard work for Rozeman, was found guilty in 1984 and was sentenced to die by electrocution, then the state's method of execution.
For three decades, Ford has maintained his innocence and filed multiple appeals, most of which were denied.
But in 2000, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered an evidentiary hearing on Ford's claim that the prosecution suppressed favorable evidence related to Jake and Henry Robinson, two brothers initially implicated in the crime.
According to the Shreveport Times, court records show that an unidentified informant in 2013 told prosecutors that Jake Robinson admitted to shooting and killing Rozeman.
Last Thursday, prosecutors filed a motion to vacate Ford's conviction and sentence, saying that in late 2013 "credible evidence" came to their attention "supporting a finding that Ford was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman."
If prosecution had been privy to the information initially, the motion said, "Ford might not even have been arrested or indicted for this offense."
Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Catherine Estopinal declined on Tuesday to elaborate on what she termed "a recent development" that prompted prosecutors to reverse course.
"I can't go into it," she said.
(Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Brendan O'Brien, G Crosse, Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills)