Holy Moses! The first surprise in this passage from Deuteronomy is that the biblical lawgiver par excellence is also the prototypical prophet. In 21st-century America, prophets are not so easily disguised as senators and members of Congress. What does Washington have to do with Waco? Law, or the codification, enforcement and interpretation of community mores, does not usually appear in the same sentence as prophecy, the impassioned oraculation of the divine word. We tend to think of these two matrices of authority as in tension or opposition to one another. Vox populi on the one hand; vox Dei on the other.
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).