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Louisiana man to be paid by state for wrongful conviction

The state of Louisiana extracted a heavy price from a New Orleans defendant for the death of a police officer's wife. The man spent most of his adult life in prison after a conviction for a murder. State officials determined last year the defendant did not shoot and kill the woman and let the prisoner go.

The man was convicted twice for the same crime. The first time was in 1983, four years after investigators found the woman's bullet-riddled body in her home. The defendant admitted he was the shooter, but there were problems with the confession.

The defendant had been given alcohol and drugs during the police interrogation. Statements made to authorities were inconsistent with prosecutors' evidence. The criminal conviction was overturned in 1989 by the state Supreme Court, but one year later, a retrial ended with a guilty verdict.

The Innocence Project New Orleans sought the inmate's release last spring. The district attorney's office reviewed the case and acknowledged there had been "prosecutorial misconduct." At the time of the defendant's trial, prosecutors suppressed a police report and detectives' testimony about likely suspects and the murder weapon.

The prisoner, now in his 60s, was freed 34 years after he was incarcerated. The state will pay for its mistakes over the next 10 years. A $250,000 wrongful imprisonment claim was cleared recently by the state attorney general – the sum is the highest amount possible under state law, but far lower than the maximum amount in other states.

An additional $80,000 may be available for the wrongfully-convicted man. Louisiana law compensates eligible parties for "loss of life opportunities," like training for employment and education. Family members said the former prisoner has a job and is adapting well to his freedom.

Protecting defendants' rights includes examining police and prosecutors' conduct during an arrest, interrogation or trial. Preventing a conviction is always preferable to retracting one.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Reginald Adams, wrongfully convicted of murder, cleared for state compensation" Jonathan Bullington, Mar. 17, 2015

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