‘Thin Blue Line’ Suspect Freed, Faces New Trial
Randall Dale Adams, who once was three days from execution for the slaying of a police officer, was freed Tuesday under a court ruling that he didn’t get a fair trial.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about for 12 1/2 years,” Adams said after the release order was cleared in some last-minute legal action. “It’s here, but give me a little bit of time to think about it.”
Adams, whose conviction was questioned in the documentary film “The Thin Blue Line,” had been ordered released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond set Monday by state District Judge Larry Baraka. But prosecutors had tried to get Baraka removed from the case, saying he was biased in Adams’ favor.
The prosecution succeeded in getting the bond raised to $100,000 cash surety late Monday, keeping Adams in prison another night.
Earlier Tuesday, Errol Morris, who directed “The Thin Blue Line,” announced he would put up the money to meet the higher bond.
But District Judge Ron Chapman subsequently revoked the higher amount after talking to Baraka in chambers.
That cleared the way for Adams’ release from the Lew Sterrett Justice Center without having to put up any money.
In a related hearing, visiting state District Judge Carl Anderson cleared Baraka to hear the case should prosecutors decide to retry Adams for the 1976 killing of patrolman Robert Wood.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Winfield Scott said he intends to retry Adams for the shooting, but may reduce the charge from capital murder to murder.
Adams said he was happy that two courts had ruled in his favor but said he won’t feel vindicated unless his name is cleared in a second trial.
Adams was condemned to die in 1977, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1980.
“The Thin Blue Line” suggested the slaying was committed by the prosecution’s chief witness, David Harris, who is on Death Row for another slaying but was not charged in the Wood killing. During a hearing in December, Harris recanted his trial testimony and told Baraka that Adams did not kill the policeman.
Based in part on that testimony, Baraka recommended that Adams’ conviction be set aside and wrote a letter supporting parole.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, and on March 1 unanimously overturned Adams’ conviction.