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Randall Adams Trial: 1977

Surprise Witnesses Emerge

With Mulder unable to shake Adams' assertion that he had left Harris two hours prior to the shooting, acquittal seemed a formality. Then, at the 11 th hour, three surprise eyewitnesses came forward. R.L. Miller and his wife, Emily, described driving slowly by and seeing everything. Both identified Adams as the driver of the car. (Significantly, one week later, Mrs. Miller's daughter, due to face armed robbery charges, learned that her case had been quietly dropped.)

Another motorist, Michael Randell, claimed to have seen two people in the car. The passenger was indistinct but he had no trouble recognizing Adams as the driver.

White fulminated at the unfairness of these tactics: "Mr. Mulder is trying to convict an innocent man." But his words fell on deaf ears. Judge Donald J. Metcalfe ruled the evidence admissible and, on May 3, 1977, Randall Adams was convicted and sentenced to death.

But the fight continued. In June 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction on the grounds of improper jury selection. Dallas prosecutors, anxious to avoid a retrial, advised the governor that Adams' sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.

In 1985, David Harris, on Death Row for another killing, began hinting that much of his testimony against Adams had been coached into him by conviction-hungry prosecutors. In a series of taped interviews Harris obliquely admitted culpability. The three eyewitnesses also admitted that their evidence had been compromised.

Another four years would pass before an appeals court ordered Adams' release. While refusing to admit any error, prosecutors declined to retry him. Adams was freed but has still not been fully exonerated.

In 1988, Errol Morris' Oscar-nominated "docudrama," The Thin Blue Line, brought the name of Randall Adams to national prominence. A searching examination of Dallas justice, it did more than pave the way for Adams' ultimate release, it exposed the heartless folly of placing ambition over truth.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Adams, Randall, William Hoffer, and Marilyn Mona Hoffer. Adams V. Texas. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Bruning, F. "Why Did Randall Adams Almost Die?" Mclean's (March 27, 1989).

Carlson, M. "Recrossing The Thin Blue Line." Time (April 3, 1989): 23.

Cartwright, Gary. "The Longest Ride of His Life." Texas. 4onthly (May 1987): 124ff.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Randall Adams Trial: 1977 - Surprise Witnesses Emerge