Thin Blue Line
The Thin Blue Line, tells the story of Randall Adams, falsely accused of
killing a police officer in Dallas, Texas on thanksgiving night around
12:30. The crime was committed near the parking
lot of a gas station when the police officer pulled over a car to ask the
driver to put on the headlights. The
officer’s partner, who managed to get a few shots off before the car sped out
of site, witnessed the crime.
in the evening, Adams had been walking along in search of gas, when David Harris picked
him up. Harris was 16 years old at the
time, and had stolen his neighbour’s car and was in the middle of a crime
spree. After getting a bite to eat and
watching a movie, Harris dropped Adams off at his motel room and left.
Adams then proceeded to watch
the Carol Burnett Show and the Local News before going to sleep.
several months of investigation, the police received a tip that a boy from
Vidor, Texas was bragging
that he had shot a cop. It turns out the
t the boy was David Harris. After being
interrogated, he confessed to the crime and lead police to the murder weapon,
which he had thrown into a swamp. When
he finally realised the seriousness of his crime, Harris shifted the blame to
Randall Adams. Since the police found it
more believable that a 28 year old man committed the crime that a 16 year old,
they never even considered Harris a suspect, which is odd since he already had
a criminal record, while Adams had never been arrested.
Adams was arrested and interrogated. He
was not permitted to make a phone call, and his requests for a lawyer were
refused. After refusing to sign the
initial confession written up b the police, Adams eventually signed a statement
saying that he knew David Harris and had been with him on the night in
question. Several bad choices of words
in the statement allowed the police to make assumptions that were not valid
under the circumstances.
from Harris, the partner of the dead officer was the only other credible
witness. After her initial statement
began an internal affairs investigation, she changed several important details
in her testimony in order to implicate Adams. For example, one driver
with a heavy coat and mid-length hair became two men and the driver of the car
had bushy hair and a fur collar. She
also changed her testimony concerning her location when the crime was
committed. Originally she said that she
had stayed in the squad car. Later she
said that she left the squad car and took up position behind the accused’s blue
comet. In both statements, she testified
to firing several shots at the car, but no trace of the bullet was ever found
as the car was totalled before it could be fully searched.
were other witnesses who came forward after a reward was offered. But, the all seem more interested in what
they can gain from their testimony than in telling the truth. Their testimony was essentially useless since
they were unable to pick Adams out of a police line-up.
most controversial witness for the prosecution was the psychiatrist nicknamed
Dr. Death. After twenty minutes of
meaningless questions, he determined that Adams presented a risk of future violent acts. He also testified to Adams’ complete lack of remorse. This can be interpreted one of two ways. Either Adams is a psychopath without a conscience, or he really did not kill the
Despite the fact that all of the evidence pointed to David Harris,
the jury convicted Randall Adams and sentenced him to death by electrocution. While waiting on Death Row, Adams was tormented with
stories of what happened when men were executed.
elements of the trial seem to be somewhat shady. For example, the District Attorney trying the
case convinced the people of Vidor, Texas that the defence wanted to set up Harris. The people than began to harass the defence
attorneys while they conducted their own investigation. It also seems strange that a known criminal
who is out on probation is overlooked, while Adams was accused. The only explanation is that the district
attorney wanted the death penalty, but it could not be applied to the
16-year-old Harris. Adams, at 28, must have seemed
a much better target.
the Judge was unwilling to give Adams the benefit of the doubt. HE
prevented the defence from offering alternate theories of the crime that
implicated Harris as the killer.
Adams lawyers appealed
twice. The 1st appeal to the
state court was unanimously denied, but fortunately, the 2nd appeal,
to the Supreme Court this time, was successful in calling for a retrial. But, before a retrial could begin, the
Governor of Texas commuted the death sentence and Adams was forced to serve a
life sentence (with the death sentence commuted, there could be no retrial).
the trial, one of the two defence attorneys who represented Adams retired, saying that he
could not be part of a system that allowed for such injustices.
later discover that Harris was given full immunity for all of his crimes in exchange
for his testimony against Adams. In an interview for this
film, David Harris all but confessed to the crime, saying that he knew that Adams was telling the truth
when he denied committing the murder. He
said that Adams wouldn’t be where he was today if he had of had a place for Harris
to stay for the night.
when he was given full immunity and this interview, Harris had been convicted
of another murder and was then waiting on death row himself.