Louisiana Man Sues Over Murder Conviction

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – An Orleans Parish man says that investigators plied him with drugs and alcohol until he confessed to a murder he didn’t commit and for which he spent more than half his life in prison.
     On the night of October 7, 1979, 24-year-old Cathy Ulfers, the wife of New Orleans Police Officer Ronald Ulfers, was shot seven times in her home. Reginald Adams was ultimately arrested for the crime, confessed to committing it, and then spent the next 34 years in prison trying to clear his name.
     In May 2014, following an Innocence Project of New Orleans investigation, Adams was released and all charges were dropped.
     In a complaint filed in New Orleans Federal Court on May 11, Reginald Adams, 62, says the state’s case against him was based entirely upon a coerced confession made to detectives Martin Venezia and Sam Gebbia after almost five hours of interrogation, during which they plied him with Valium and alcohol.
     Adams says no physical evidence or eyewitness ever linked him to the crime.
     What’s more, he claims, at the time Venezia and Gebbia were questioning him, they were already aware of critical exculpatory evidence implicating Cathy Ulfers’s husband.
     The detectives also knew that the weapon and jewelry taken from the Ulfers’s house were found in possession of two other suspects in the murder, the lawsuit says.
     Adams says Venezia and Gebbia perjured themselves at his trials, by denying existence of this evidence,.
     In February 2015, after Adams was released from jail, Gebbia told Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Colin Clark that Ronald Ulfers was always ‘suspicious’ to him, Adams’s complaint says.
     Gebbia’s suspicions were raised by the fact that Ronald Ulfers had attended a New Orleans Saints game with another woman the same day his wife was killed, the lawsuit says.
     Venezia and Gebbia located information pointing to suspects other than Adams within a short time frame after they began investigating, and in October 1979 – the same month as the murder took place – they arrested Roland Burns, who had no connection to Adams, on possession of stolen property from Ulfers’ home.
     Although it was never disclosed by NOPD during Adams’ 1983 trial, tests indicated the .32 caliber gun belonging to Burns was the murder weapon.
     In June 1980 Adams was arrested by NOPD in connection with the burglary of a seafood restaurant.
     Adams was eventually acquitted of the burglary charges, but Venezia and Gebbia allegedly coerced him into a confession while Adams was being held in prison.
     Adams testified during his first trial that he was given alcohol and several Valium pills before he confessed. He also testified that Detective Venezia had drawn him a map to allow him to direct them to the correct location of the crime scene.
     In August 1983, Adams was wrongfully convicted of the murder of Cathy Ulfers and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
     Adams’ first conviction was reversed by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1989, and Adams was retried and again wrongfully convicted in 1990.
     Before both trials, Adams’ defense sought discovery from the state, but the state failed to disclose any information, according to the lawsuit.
     Evidence in the NOPD reports dug up by the Innocence Project showed that the gun possessed by Burns, who had no relation to Adams, was a definite match to the bullets that killed Ulfers, and that Burns had been living in a hotel room that he “fled” the day following the murder.
     Burns was also found to be in possession of a bracelet and diamond ring taken from Ulfers’s house.
     Adams claims Venezia and Gebbia lied during his murder trials, claiming that other suspects were never identified, property stolen from the house was never recovered, and that the murder weapon wasn’t found, the lawsuit says.
     Also, Adams’ coerced confession did not match the facts, including the sex of the victim.
     Under alcohol, Valium and coaching, Adams told detectives he had shot a dark-haired male of about 5’10 who came through the front door and had ransacked the master bedroom and taken off with the TV and some cash.
     In fact, Ulfers – clearly a woman – was blond and 5’6. The house had two side entrances but no front entrance, and only jewelry and cash were stolen.
     At the time the Innocence Project began looking into Adams’s case in 2013, Ronald Ulfers was already in prison following the 2006 conviction for murder of his second wife, the lawsuit says.
     Adams seeks damages from the State of Louisiana, the current and former Orleans Parish District Attorneys as well as numerous members of the New Orleans Police Department.
     Adams’ attorney, Michael Magner of Jones Walker LLP in New Orleans, did not respond to a request for comment.
     Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office issued a statement in March saying an investigation it conducted found Adams was ‘factually innocent’ in Ulfers’s killing.
     Caldwell’s office in March agreed that Adams will receive $250,000 over ten years as part of a consent judgment to make up for Adams’s wrongful incarceration. That is the maximum allowable under the law that governs the State’s Innocence Compensation Fund.

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