A state appeals court Wednesday overturned the murder conviction of Randall Dale Adams in the 1976 slaying of a Dallas police officer, a case resurrected by the film "The Thin Blue Line."
In a unanimous decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said prosecutors suppressed evidence during Adams' 1977 trial and used perjured testimony."When deceit produces court rulings that have the effect of denying one a fair trial, then the conviction should be vacated," wrote Judge M.P. Duncan.
The appeals court ordered Adams transferred from prison to the Dallas County jail. In Dallas, Assistant District Attorney Norm Kinne said Adams will be held there while prosecutors decide whether to retry him.
"We have one of the prosecutors reviewing evidence and interviewing witnesses in the case. We're in process of determining whether we have sufficient evidence for a retrial," the district attorney said.
Adams, 40, had maintained that he was innocent. He was sentenced to death in 1977 for the slaying of Officer Robert Wood, but that sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1980. He has served 12 years behind bars.
His case received wide public attention with "The Thin Blue Line," a documentary on the case in which the prosecution's chief witness recanted.
Adams' attorney, Randy Schaffer, did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday.
The appeals court reviewed the case on the recommendation of state District Judge Larry Baraka, who said after a hearing in December that Adams did not receive a fair trial.
The appeals court said Adams' rights were violated when the state knowingly suppressed evidence that a witness, Emily Miller, had failed to identify Adams in a lineup; that a police officer advised her she didn't identify Adams; and that the officer told her the person she should have identified.
The court also said Miller committed perjury by testifying, outside the presence of the jury, that she had identified Adams in the lineup.
In his opinion, Duncan wrote: "In the present case, the trial court found the state was guilty of suppressing evidence favorable to the accused, deceiving the trial court during applicant's trial, and knowingly using perjured testimony. In each instance, the nature of the evidence or testimony was such that beneficial results inured to the state at the expense of due process."
On Nov. 28, 1976, Adams, then 27, ran out of gas while driving home from work. Harris, a Vi-dor 16-year-old who had stolen a car and driven to Dallas, helped Adams get gas and spent the part of the day with him.
Wood was shot and killed that night by a motorist he had pulled over on a traffic violation.
Harris had testified that Adams killed Wood. But Harris recanted in the movie and during a hearing in December. He is on Death Row for another slaying.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole on Friday had denied parole for Adams after a special review. The board cited the violent nature of the crime and use of a weapon.