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Wrongfully convicted man released from jail after 34 years

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Reginald Adams walks out of New Orleans Municipal Court on Monday. He served 34 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. Reginald Adams walks out of New Orleans Municipal Court on Monday. He served 34 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

A man who spent 34 years in prison is free after the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office said he was wrongfully convicted of a 1979 murder.

Reginald Adams, 61, was accused of killing Cathy Ulfers. Prosecutors and defense attorneys believe the 1979 investigation and 1983 trial involved intentional misconduct on the part of New Orleans police and prosecutors.

A joint motion was filed to grant Adams a new murder trial. That motion was granted Monday morning. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he is dismissing the case and he does not intend to retry Adams.

Cannizzaro said court documents revealed that certain police and prosecutors intentionally concealed evidence that could have helped the defense's case.

"I will not tolerate intentional misconduct on the part of police or prosecutors," Cannizzaro said. "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."

On October 7, 1979, Ulfers, the wife of an NOPD officer and the daughter of a retired NOPD major, was shot seven times in her home in the 3900 blk. of Downman Rd. in New Orleans East. The perpetrators of the crime ransacked the house and stole several pieces of jewelry.

NOPD homicide detectives Martin Venezia and Sam Gebbia investigated the murder. In September of 1980, Adams was an inmate in the Orleans Parish Prison awaiting trial on a burglary charge for which he was ultimately acquitted. However, detectives investigating the Ulfers murder heard rumors Adams could be connected

When Adams requested a meeting with the detectives on his burglary case, Venezia spoke with Adams. Adams claims to have been given alcohol and narcotics during an hour that last longer than four hours. He eventually made a taped confession. Some of the claims made by Adams in the confession were inconsistent with the physical evidence, according to Cannizzaro's office.

Adams was arrested for the murder. In 1983, Assistant District Attorneys Ronald Bodenheimer and Harold Gilbert, who unsuccessfully tried Adams on the unrelated burglary charge, tried Adams for the murder. The case was based entirely on the confession.

During trial and in response to discovery requests, the detectives testified and prosecutors claimed that neither the murder weapon nor any of the property taken from the home were ever recovered by police. Additionally, the detectives testified that no other suspects were ever developed or investigated for the murder. Following the trial, Adams was convicted of the murder and received a life sentence in Angola.

In a review of public records, defense attorneys found a supplemental police report with details about the initial murder investigation. In the report, it was revealed that the murder weapon was recovered during an arrest.

Detectives traced the weapon back to an individual who was in possession of a piece of jewelry that had been taken from Ulfer's home.

The individual was arrested as an accessory to the murder and for possession of stolen property. Prosecutors dismissed the charges years before Adams was brought to trial for murder.

The testimony given by Venizia and Gebbia at trial was inconsistent with the information contained in the supplemental report. Defense attorneys also found the report about additional suspects and the murder weapon was in the possession of the District Attorney's office. They discovered that it was in the file regarding the unrelated burglary charge against Adams. Bodenhiemer and Gilbert handled both cases.

Cannizzaro's office concluded the prosecutors were fully aware of the additional suspects as well as the recovery of the murder weapon and other physical evidence. He said their handling of this case amounts to intentional prosecutorial misconduct.

"This case is an egregious example of intentional police and prosecutorial misconduct, which ruined a man's life and did not bring justice to Cathy Ulfers' family. We applaud and congratulate District Attorney Cannizzaro and his office for their prompt, professional, and just resolution of this matter on behalf of Mr. Adams and the citizens of this community," Michael Magner and Emily Maw, attorneys for Adams, said in a statement.

There is no word on how police will move forward with Ulfers' murder investigation.

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