Randall Dale Adams

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Randall Dale Adams
Personal details
Born (1948-12-17)December 17, 1948
Died October 30, 2010(2010-10-30) (aged 61)
Washington Court House, Ohio, U.S.
Spouse(s) Jill Fratta
Occupation U.S. anti death-penalty activist

Randall Dale Adams (December 17, 1948 – October 30, 2010[1]) was a man who was wrongly convicted of murdering police officer Robert W. Wood and was subsequently sentenced to death. He served more than 12 years in prison and some of that time on death row.[2][3] His death sentence was reduced through appeal to the United States Supreme Court,[4] and eight years later he was released when evidence was uncovered to prove his innocence.

His case is profiled in the 1988 documentary film The Thin Blue Line, and the evidence presented in the film had a significant impact on obtaining his release.[5]


In 1989, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Ex parte Adams[6] overturned Adams' conviction on the grounds of malfeasance by the prosecutor Douglas D. Mulder and inconsistencies in the testimony of a key witness, Emily Miller.[7][8] The appeals court found that prosecutor Mulder withheld a statement by Emily Miller to the police that cast doubt on her credibility and also allowed her to give perjured testimony. Further, the court found that after Adams' attorney discovered the statement late in Adams' trial, Mulder falsely told the court that he did not know the witness's whereabouts. The case remained in limbo.[9] In 1981, Mulder returned to practice private law in Dallas,[10] and the new prosecution then dropped charges in 1989.[11] The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said (and Adams agreed) that "conviction was unfair mainly because of prosecutor Doug Mulder."[12][13] Adams later worked as an anti-death penalty activist.

Adams wrote a book about his story, Adams V. Texas, which was published in June 1992.[14]


After release from prison, Adams ended up in a legal battle with Errol Morris, the director of The Thin Blue Line, concerning the rights to his story. The matter was settled out of court after Adams was granted sole use of anything written or made on the subject of his life.[15] Adams said of the matter: "Mr. Morris felt he had the exclusive rights to my life story. ... I did not sue Errol Morris for any money or any percentages of The Thin Blue Line, though the media portrayed it that way."[16]

Morris, for his part, remembers: "When he got out, he became very angry at the fact that he had signed a release giving me rights to his life story. And he felt as though I had stolen something from him. Maybe I had, maybe I just don't understand what it's like to be in prison for that long, for a crime you hadn't committed. In a certain sense, the whole crazy deal with the release was fueled by my relationship with his attorney. And it's a long, complicated story, but I guess when people are involved, there's always a mess somewhere."[17]

At a legislative hearing, Adams said:

Personal life[edit]

Adams married Jill Fratta, the sister of a death-row inmate.[1]


Adams died of a brain tumor in Washington Court House, Ohio on October 30, 2010.[19] He had chosen to live a quiet life divorced from his past; according to his lawyer, Randy Schaffer, the death was reported only locally. It became more widely reported on June 25, 2011.[1] Adams' mother died in December 2010.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Martin, Douglas (June 25, 2011). "Randall Adams, 61, Dies; Freed With Help of Film". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Suro, Roberto (March 2, 1989). "CONVICTION VOIDED IN TEXAS MURDER". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  3. ^ Suro, Roberto (November 27, 1988). "DEATH ROW LUCK: 'I'M STILL ALIVE'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  4. ^ "Randall Dale Adams returns to Dallas". Austin American-Statesman. December 4, 1989. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  5. ^ "`Blue Line' inmate freed after 12 years". Chicago Tribune. March 22, 1989. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  6. ^ 768 S.W.2d 281 (Tex. Ct. Crim. App. 1989) (en banc), at [1].
  7. ^ Gross, Bruce (December 22, 2004). "Dangerous predictions: the case of Randall Dale Adams". American College of Forensic Examiners. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  8. ^ Tomaso, Bruce (July 5, 1989). "Possibilities beckon beyond `Thin Blue Line': Film maker hopes to capitalize on his documentary's acclaim". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  9. ^ Jackson, David (May 14, 1988). "INMATE INNOCENT, CONVICT SAYS: But ruling could block new trial in slaying of Dallas officer". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  10. ^ "HOW THE BEST LAWYERS STACK UP". D Magazine. May 1, 2001. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  11. ^ Miller, Bobbi (March 24, 1989). "DA DROPS MURDER CHARGE AGAINST ADAMS". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  12. ^ Jackson, David (March 3, 1989). "ADAMS BLAMES MULDER FOR MURDER CONVICTION". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  13. ^ "Presumed Guilty". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. July 14, 1991. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  14. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Adams-V-Texas-Randall/dp/0312927789/
  15. ^ "Freed Inmate Settles Suit With Producer Over Rights to Story". New York Times. August 6, 1989. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  16. ^ "Danny Yeager Interviews Randall Dale Adams" X (3). The Touchstone. Summer 2000. Archived from the original on 2001-02-22. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  17. ^ "An Interview with Errol Morris". Wisconsin Public Radio. July 2, 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  18. ^ "Adams v. The Death Penalty". Columbus Alive. November 15, 2001. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  19. ^ Ball, Linda Stewart. "Texas exoneree featured in ‘Thin Blue Line’ dies". khou.com. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 

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