A man named Glenn Ford was recently exonerated and released from Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he served 30 years on Louisiana’s death row after being declared guilty for the murder of Isadore Rozeman in 1983. Ford, now 65, is seeking wrongful imprisonment compensation, but due to a loophole in Louisiana’s state law is being denied his claim of a paltry $250,000 (the maximum allowed under Louisiana state law). Now suffering from stage-4 lung cancer, Ford is also suing the state for failing to properly diagnose and treat his condition during his imprisonment.
Before you stop reading, let me just say this isn’t a post detailing the faulty mechanisms of the judicial or penal system. It goes without saying, Glenn Ford was fucked. Majorly. However, being the keen observer of irony that I am, what strikes me about this story isn’t how shitty Ford’s situation is. To me, what’s interesting about this case is how it makes us reconsider our concept of justice—and how the many layers of absurdity woven into this story of wrongful imprisonment, care for the dying despite being sentenced to death, and the thwarted attempt at retribution by a man whose last gesture on earth is to find some shred of justice—all build to something even more tragic than what this news headline would suggest.
What’s saddening to me is that he’s still imprisoned. Not by the state, but by his own beliefs.
Glenn Ford still believes in justice.
In case you were wondering, justice doesn’t exist. It’s just some artificial construct we place over reality that lets us do things like build empires or buy 60” TVs without worrying about them exploding during that climatic scene in Transformers 3 (this would make a great scene in a Mike Judge movie). We believe in it, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s real—not in the way things like gravity or death are real. It’s just a virtual safety net that allows us to forge ahead, no matter how clueless we might be, trusting all will be made right—in this world or the next. Ford’s story proves how thin that illusion is, but also how necessary a role it plays in our model of reality.
I’m reminded of that argument from Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic, in which he argues justice is merely a propaganda campaign institutionalized by the ruling class in order to oppress the masses. Sounds about right. Normally I would put forth a ‘what if’ statement right about now in order to rhetorically appear as if I’m still considering the position; but I’ve spent a large portion of my life pondering the validity of this idea and I’ve found no evidence to suggest Thrasymachus is wrong.
Every second, a star explodes somewhere in the universe, obliterating countless worlds and lifeforms we can only pretend to understand, and yet, here on earth, life continues—no stifled screams, no hair pulling or proverbial hearts being wrenched from beating chests. That’s because here on earth justice prevails. It makes me wonder if the dinosaurs were so stoic watching that asteroid fall from the sky?
Is it wrong to compare cataclysmic events with the inequity of a human life? I just wonder if what we’re searching for is the same in both cases—something that let’s us know it was all worth it? In the end, it’s not the question itself that bothers me, it’s who we’re asking.
Beginning of The Sith Code, as written by Sorzus Syn and taught by Darth Bane: Peace is a lie, there is only passion.