by the IP of New Orleans with assistance from the local DA (who admitted intentionally prosecutorial misconduct)…
From the New Orleans Advocate:
A man serving life in prison for a 1979 murder was set free Monday after Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro acknowledged “intentional prosecutorial misconduct” in his case and false testimony from a New Orleans police detective who helped convict him.
Cannizzaro and attorneys with Innocence Project New Orleans, the nonprofit law firm, are scheduled to announce Reginald Adams’ release at an 11:30 a.m. news conference. Defense attorneys and prosecutors filed a joint motion asking Judge Laurie White to vacate his conviction, which she granted Monday morning. “You’re free to go,” White told Adams, who has been behind bars for 34 years.
“I will not tolerate intentional misconduct on the part of police or prosecutors,” Cannizzaro said in a statement, apologizing to Adams on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office for depriving him of a fair trial. “Their handling of this case was shameful. Not only did their intentional acts harm Reginald Adams, who was wrongfully incarcerated for more than three decades, but also it denied this community any opportunity to hold the real perpetrator criminally responsible for this violent crime.”
Adams was indicted in October 1980 for the first-degree murder of Cathy Ulfers, the wife of policeman Ronald P. Ulfers Sr., who was shot and killed at her Downman Road home in October 1979. Adams was tried and convicted of the killing in 1983 and sentenced to life in prison, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed that conviction in 1989, according to court records. He was retried for the same murder in 1990.
“The evidence against Mr. Adams at both trials consisted exclusively of a confession to the murder, made to Detectives Martin Venezia and Frank Ruiz while Mr. Adams was in the custody of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office,” the joint motion states, adding the confession was “in many ways inaccurate and inconsistent with the known facts of Cathy Ulfers’ murder.”
Ronald Ulfers, who retired from the New Orleans Police Department in 1989, had been a suspect in Cathy Ulfers’ slaying but was never charged, according to news accounts. He was later convicted of murder in the death of his second wife and sentenced to life in prison.
The joint motion says detectives “misrepresented that no evidence or other suspects had been found in the case until Mr. Adams confessed.” It also blames then-prosecutors Ronald Bodenheimer and Harold J. Gilbert Jr. for making “materially false” responses to discovery requests made by Adams’ defense attorney.
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro, said in a news release that Bodenhemier and Gilbert failed to turn over a supplemental police report that “fully aware of the additional suspects as well as the recovery of the murder weapon and other physical evidence and that their handling of this case amounts to intentional prosecutorial misconduct.”
Detectives and prosecutors had claimed at Adams’ trial that neither the murder weapon nor any property taken from Ulfers’ home had been recovered by the authorities. Detectives even testified no other suspects had been investigated in the slaying.
Adams’ attorneys, Emily Maw of the Innocence Project and Michael Magner, a former federal prosecutor, reviewed public records related to the case and discovered “a supplemental police report detailing the first several months of the murder investigation in 1979,” Bowman said. He said the report revealed that detectives had been notified “that a weapon similar to the weapon used in the Ulfers murder had been recovered in an arrest,” and that a ballistics expert later determined it was the murder weapon.
“In one of the sad ironies of this case, the detectives, based on this discovery, performed a thorough follow up investigation that traced the weapon back to two individuals,” Bowman added. “The detectives questioned and searched one of the two individuals, and they discovered that he was in possession of a piece of jewelry that had been taken from the Ulfers’ home in the burglary.
Bodenheimer, who later became a judge in the 24th Judicial District in Jefferson Parish, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2003 to an array of charges related to corruption at the Jefferson Parish Courthouse. Bodenhemier could not immediately be reached for comment.
In his statement, Cannizzaro said that Adams’ release did not “tell a story about how bad the criminal justice system in New Orleans was.”
“I believe that this is a story about a new day in the New Orleans criminal justice system,” he said. “It is a story about a bright future for every citizen of New Orleans.”