WRONGFULLY ACCUSED: Minn. attorneys help free death row inmate - KMSP-TV

WRONGFULLY ACCUSED: St. Paul attorney helps save death row inmate

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The release of Glenn Ford is making headlines across the country, and Fox 9 News spoke with one of the attorneys who helped free him from death row after he spent 26 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

"My mind is going in all kinds of directions, but it feels good," Ford said as he walked out of prison a free man for the first time in more than a quarter of a century.

Ford was the longest serving inmate on Louisiana's death row, and Deborah Ellis admits her first and only death-row client has a special place in her heart.

"It's been an emotional roller coaster," she said. "It's been unbelievable."

After filing legal challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court along with a handful of Minnesota lawyers, the St. Paul attorney was positively giddy when she heard Ford had been exonerated and would be set free.

"It's been a really good feeling," Ellis said. "People are saying, 'Thanks for the good fight, for all the work you've put into it' -- and it was a fight, and sadly, it took 30 years."

Ford spent 26 years serving time for the murder of jeweler and watchmaker Isadore Rozeman, who was found shot to death in his store in 1983. Earlier this week, a judge overturned his conviction after new evidence that corroborated Ford's claim that he had nothing to do with the death emerged.

"The case against Ford was circumstantial and marginal, and they pressed on scientific evidence which was junk science -- which we proved later," Ellis explained.

Ellis began working on Ford's case in the early 1990s after the state of Louisiana put a call out to lawyers in northern states to work on death row cases pro bono. Since then, Ellis has put in thousands of volunteer hours keeping the case alive by filling challenges and hunting down the evidence that kept Ford alive until he was cleared.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Ellis said. "What could be a bigger accomplishment than to have someone on death row walk off? It's a thrill."

Although Ellis has not spoken with Ford since his release, she does plan to get in touch with him in the next couple of days.

"I'm sure he's getting acclimated to being outside, and I think he has a place to stay so I'm hoping to get down there soon," she said.

In the meantime, she hopes people will re-think the death penalty because no one wants to make a mistake when dealing with death.

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