Reginald Adams was exonerated on May 12, 2014 after spending nearly 34 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
On October 7, 1979, Cathy Ulfers, the wife of a New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officer was shot to death in her home in New Orleans. The house had been ransacked and the victim’s husband reported multiple items had been stolen, leading the police to believe the victim had interrupted a burglary in progress.
In September 1980, after being interrogated for five hours by the police, Reginald confessed to the crime. This confession, which was riddled with errors and got nearly every fact about the crime wrong, was the only evidence used against him at trial. Reginald’s first trial in 1983 was for first-degree murder and prosecutors sought the death penalty. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed his conviction, and he was retried for second-degree murder in 1990. He was again convicted and sentenced to mandatory life without parole.
At both of Reginald’s trials, the NOPD homicide detectives assigned to the case testified that despite a thorough investigation into the murder, they were unable to develop any real leads until he confessed. The detectives testified that they never located the gun used to kill the victim, any of the property stolen from the victim’s home, and never had any other real suspects in the crime.
In 2013, IPNO began investigating the case. During our investigation, we discovered an NOPD supplemental report located in an unrelated file in the district attorney’s office. The report revealed that the homicide detectives had discovered the murder weapon, carefully traced it to a pair of siblings who had access to the gun shortly before the murder (and who had zero connection to Reginald ), and had subsequently arrested one of the siblings—on whom they found a bracelet stolen from the victim’s home—for accessory to first degree murder, all within one month of the crime. This report was intentionally suppressed by the prosecutors at Reginald’s first trial, and made it clear that the NOPD detectives had perjured themselves on the stand.
IPNO presented its findings to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, which agreed that Reginald’s conviction and sentence should be vacated. Just 10 days later, they joined IPNO in a motion to vacate the conviction and sentence and formally dismissed the indictment against Mr. Adams. Reginald was freed the same day and went home with his family.
In a press release, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro apologized to Mr. Adams, saying the “handling of this case was shameful. Not only did [the prosecutors’] 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.”
Reginald is enjoying his freedom with his family and slowly rebuilding his life. If you would like to help him, we have set up an Amazon wish list.