Judge considers retrial for convicted murderer

La Plata, MD - Charles Edret Ford may be one step closer to legal relief after already serving 62 years of a life sentence imposed in a La Plata courtroom by an all-white jury in 1952. However, the wheels of justice appear to be grinding slowly as defense attorney William Renahan, who is representing Ford pro-bono, and Mary Pizzo from the Maryland State Office of the Public Defender, have acknowledged.

Now the court is considering allowing a retrial for Ford because post-trial instructions were not given to the defendant after he was convicted of first-degree murder in 1952.

When Ford was brought into court in prison garb, while waiting for his motions hearing to begin, he met, for the first time, his great niece, Angela Nivens, who only last year learned she had a great-uncle serving time in the Maryland Department of Corrections from an article published on

Nivens came to court with one of her two daughters to meet Ford and they exchanged conversation for several moments before the hearing began.

Renahan once again raised the question of whether his client could be released on bond, as Ford is 83 years old and is in ill health.

He said his office has looked into a possible nursing home or familial situation for the defendant should he be allowed to go free prior to his retrial.

Charles County Circuit Court Judge Helen I. Harrington told Renahan, “The court will consider the need for placement if we ever get to that point.”

Harrington did deny the state’s request for a stay in a 1975 assault case which stemmed from an incident that occurred while Ford was incarcerated, but said there are many issues surrounding the 1952 case for which no records or witnesses can be found and it will take time to sort through.

“The court will take the case under advisement,” she said.

“It’s just frustrating because of the length of time that has passed already,” Pizzo noted.

“Time is something we don’t have a lot of,” Renahan said.

The case has drawn interest because anyone who could have testified about the trial would probably have been deceased in the 62 years Ford has been in prison. Efforts to turn up documentation on the case have proven futile.

Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Constance Kopelman admitted she has been unable to find any court or police record of the incident for which Ford was convicted.

Charles County Circuit Court Thomas R. Simpson accompanied Harrington on the bench during Wednesday’s judicial proceedings.

Contact Joseph Norris at

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