When the Greeks and Romans created their respective gods of justice, they apparently did not have Louisiana’s Second Judicial District in mind.
The Lady of Justice, holding a sword and the scales of justice, is a familiar sight in Western culture. Her statue adorns many courthouses and halls of justice across the U.S. and miniature versions stand proudly on the desks of countless attorneys. In some depictions, she is blindfolded but most often, she is not.
The origin of the statue is said to be Themis, a Greek goddess of divine justice. In illustrations of her, she carries the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other, with her eyes covered. The Romans consolidated her and her daughter Dike to form Justitia.
So just how did the Second Judicial District, which comprises the parishes of Jackson, Bienville and Claiborne, come to be overlooked in the administering of so-called blind justice, aka fair and impartial justice?
Or more accurately, three words: Rev. Mack Ford.
Back in January, a Bienville Parish grand jury declined to indict Ford, then 82, who was accused of raping girls who were residents of his infamous New Bethany Home in Arcadia in the 1970s, ‘80s and into the ‘90s. Ford died suddenly just over a month later, on February 11. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/02/mack_w_ford_founder_of_new_bet.html
And while it may seem unfair to pick on him at this point, his death is not the issue here.
Three former residents of New Bethany traveled to Arcadia from three different states in December of 2014 to testify about their experiences with Ford. Other witnesses testified in October of that year.
But in a terse, one-paragraph written statement, then-District Attorney Jonathan Stewart said the grand jury was given “research and information regarding the statute of limitations with regard to each alleged act and, after deliberation, returned a no true bill.” STEWART GRAND JURY LETTER A no true bill means the grand jury decided not to indict. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/01/grand_jury_declines_to_indict.html
So, if we are to understand Stewart’s statement and his interpretation of the law (and apparently, his instructions to the grand jury—though we will never know that for sure since grand jury proceedings are secret), the reason there was no indictment was because the statute of limitations had expired.
Just last week, on Thursday (October 8), Shreveport television station KSLA ran a story about a 74-year-old Grant Parish man who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the rape of a young girl….in the 1970s. http://www.ksla.com/story/30219460/74-year-old-charged-in-1970s-rape-of-young-girl?fb_action_ids=10154259652069128&fb_action_types=og.comments&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B913686945391152%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.comments%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D
Roy Leon Robertson was booked into the Caddo Correctional Center on Monday, October 5 and charged with aggravated rape, according to the TV report.
He is accused of raping a girl under the age of 13 in the ‘70s, but the rape was not reported to Caddo authorities until 2014 when he came under investigation for similar offenses in Winn Parish.
The parallels in the Robertson and Ford cases are unmistakable. Both were accused of raping juveniles in the ‘70s even though in each case, the offenses were not formally reported until 2014, and the reported offenses occurred in the same general area of the state.
Yet, while one such report resulted in an immediate arrest, the other was dismissed because of what the local D.A said was an expired statute of limitation.
But let’s hear what a Caddo official had to say about that:
“There is no prescription for aggravated rape,” according to investigator Jared Marshall. A victim may come forward at any time. “Normally it’s called the statue (sic) of limitations, but in Louisiana it’s called a prescription,” the TV station quoted Marshall as saying.
Detectives said the victim decided to come forward upon learning that Robertson may still be harming young children.
“It doesn’t shock me at all that a report like this was made years later,” said psychologist Bruce McCormick. “Sometimes people are just not psychologically ready to make a report at the time, particularly the younger people,” he said.
Marshall said victims should not be concerned if it’s too late to prosecute. “The process of coming forward is for the protection of potential future victims,” he said.
Never too late to prosecute?
Oops. Apparently Jonathan Stewart didn’t get the memo.
“If he (Ford) had been indicted for just one thing, it would have been justice for so many people,” Kansas police dispatcher Simone Jones, one of Ford’s accusers, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in January. She said Ford raped her in the early 1980s. “Why does this man continue to walk free?” she said following the grand jury’s decision.
The grand jury was convened a year after Jones and other former residents traveled to Arcadia in support of Jennifer Halter, a cancer victim who said she wanted to fulfill a dying wish to report Ford who she said began molesting her shortly after she arrived at the school in 1988, abuse she said continued until she left in 1990.
Jones said she was 14 when Ford forced her to perform oral sex on him.
“They let us down again,” Halter told The Times-Picayune. “I can’t understand why it’s okay for these people to do what they do and walk away like nothing was done wrong.” She said she experienced frequent sexual contact by Ford during choir trips to area churches which he chaperoned. She said she reported those incidents to police in 2013.
“This has gone on for years,” Tara Cummings told The Times-Picayune. A resident of New Bethany in 1982 and ’83, she said if the statute of limitations was an issue, Stewart should never have convened a grand jury to in the first place. “The particulars for the statutes of limitations for these crimes was always accessible to the DA’s office,” she was quoted as saying. “They (prosecutors) are the party who needs to understand and be clear about what is and what is not possible under the statutes.”
Perhaps Stewart should contact the District Attorney’s office in Caddo Parish—except he is no longer in office.
In April of 2014, Stewart fired Assistant District Attorney Danny Newell after Newell announced he would run against his boss. Stewart subsequently withdrew from his re-election bid and Newell was elected district attorney. https://lincolnparishnewsonline.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/da-stewart-fires-assistant-in-claiborne-newell-likely-opponent-in-14/