The scandal unfolding at the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia, has often been compared to events in a Stephen King novel, complete with decaying corpses and an upstanding citizen unmasked as a monster. Over 300 corpses thought to have been cremated have been discovered scattered across the 16-acre property of Ray Brent Marsh in rural Walker County. Ken Poston, an attorney defending Marsh on multiple counts of theft by deception, rejected the analogies to King’s literature of terror. “No one has been killed,” he told a judge in the case. “There is no suggestion of murder here.”
True enough. Nonetheless, what Marsh is charged with is in some respects even more disturbing. Though prohibitions against murder are at least as old as the sixth commandment, murders occur at a rate of roughly 15,000 per year in the U.S. Violations of human remains are, by contrast, extremely rare.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).