Criminal Justice

Man is freed after 34 years in prison; DA agrees to vacate sentence based on 'shameful' misconduct

  • Print

Reginald Adams is a free man after spending 34 years in prison as a result of a murder case said to be marred by prosecutorial misconduct.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said at a press conference on Monday that prosecutors and police working on the case decades ago had engaged in “shameful” conduct, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. “I will not tolerate intentional misconduct on the part of police or prosecutors,” he said.

Adams was convicted of killing the wife of a New Orleans police officer, who was shot in an apparent burglary of her home in October 1979. Adams claimed he was given drugs and alcohol during a four-hour police interrogation, the Times-Picayune says. Adams’ confession was wrong about the gender of the victim, and he was unable to say how many times she was shot or which door he used to enter the home.

A supplemental police report said police had found a murder weapon and traced it to two other people, including a man with jewelry taken from the home. The supplemental police report was filed in another case and was not made available to Adams’ defense lawyers. The detectives falsely testified they never found a murder weapon and had no other suspects in the case, officials now say. According to Cannizzaro, the prosecutors who tried Adams knew about recovery of the murder weapon but did not disclose it.

One of the prosecutors became a judge and went to prison for corruption as a result of the “Operation Wrinkled Robe” federal investigation, the story says. He told the Times-Picayune, “I think they’re going after me because of my problems.” The second prosecutor has since died.

The murder victim’s husband was once considered a suspect in his wife’s murder but was never charged, the story says. He went to prison, however, after being convicted of killing his second wife.

Adams’ original conviction had been overturned in 1989 because jurors were allowed to view transcripts and tapes of the confession, but he was retried and convicted in 1990.

The District Attorney’s office in Orleans Parish agreed to review the case on May 2 at the request of Adams’ lawyers. Within 10 days, prosecutors joined in a motion to vacate the sentence and agreed to dismiss the charges.

Outside the courthouse, Adams said he wasn’t bitter about the case, the WWLT reports. “You can’t go around living like that,” he said. “Bitterness, it just doesn’t work.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.