Man free at last after 64 years in prison

La Plata, MD - After 64 years of incarceration, Charles Edret Ford, 84, is a free man.

Charles County Circuit Court Judge H. James West agreed with Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney John Stackhouse Wednesday, March 23 that Ford should be sentenced to unsupervised probation and be released from jail after serving 64 years in the Maryland Department of Corrections in Jessup.

“You’ve had an interesting journey,” West told the defendant, who for the first time in two years appearing in Charles County Circuit Court, was dressed in casual clothes instead of prison garb.

He was released from prison to the Blue Point Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Baltimore Dec. 18, where he is receiving medical treatment.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Ford essentially agreed to an Alford plea in a 1975 assault case.

That incident occurred when Ford was out of prison on furlough from a 1952 first-degree murder conviction.

Defense Attorneys William Renahan and Mary Pizzo have represented Ford pro bono since early 2014 and argued successfully before Charles County Circuit Court Judge Helen I. Harrington that their client’s conviction in 1952 before an all-white jury in segregated Charles County should be thrown out because at that trial, the judge failed to appraise Ford of his post-trial rights.

Harrington agreed, but there was still the matter of the 1975 conviction on second-degree assault, which was not a pretty picture.

Stackhouse said the victim was walking home along Old Washington Road in Waldorf with a 10-year-old nephew and her two small children when she observed a man standing by a red Ford Pinto.

“She walked past him and noticed he was following her,” Stackhouse said. “She started to run. He told her, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ grabbed her by her shoulders and started to choke her. He began to drag her through the mud. She was screaming. He started slamming her head against concrete. At that time her sister heard her screaming and ran to help her and the suspect ran away.”

The Pinto was later found to be a rental registered to Ford.

“”Your honor, a lot of time has expired since all of this took place, but this victim still deserves justice,” Stackhouse said.

Pizzo said that due to an article written in TheBayNet, Ford has reconnected with a great-niece in Washington, D.C. She is attempting to get a bed for her great-uncle in a nursing home close to where she lives.

To get Ford to his hearing, Renahan drove from Upper Marlboro to Baltimore to fetch Ford to his hearing in La Plata.

“That was his first car ride in many a year,” Pizzo said.

Ford said of his 1975 conviction that the victim pointed to another man in the courtroom.

“The judge said I resembled who she pointed out,” he told West.

“What do you intend to do if I let you out?” the judge asked him.

“Just live as long as I can as happy as I can,” Ford responded. “I met my great-niece. She’s a beautiful person. That’s my family now.”

“In the time you have left, I hope you enjoy it,” West told him.

He then sentenced Ford to five years, all suspended and added two years of unsupervised probation.

When the sentence was handed down, Ford began to weep openly in the courtroom.

But they were tears of joy.

Contact Joseph Norris at

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