Former inmates say exonerated man faces uphill battle - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Former inmates say exonerated man faces uphill battle

Reginald Adams Reginald Adams

After spending 34 years in prison, Reginald Adams is a free man. The former Angola inmate was exonerated Monday after the District Attorney's office discovered that former prosecutors and police withheld evidence in the case. Other former inmates say Adams won't have an easy transition back to normal life.

John Thompson is a former death row inmate who was freed in 2003 after it was revealed that prosecutors in then-DA Harry Connick's office withheld evidence. Thompson says, "The system is not designed to help us when we come home."

Walking out of criminal court Monday morning, Adams said, "I think what I'm gonna do is, take me a nice, long walk first cause I gotta try to feel things out."

Thompson worries for Adams as he spends his first night in 34 years a free man. "He can always come to us and get the support and the counseling and all," Thompson said.

Thompson provides much-needed refuge for former inmates, a place to call home once they leave prison. Three years ago, after prosecutors let him out of jail, Calvin Duncan stayed here. Duncan was friends with Reginald Adams at Angola, and they helped each other with their legal cases. "I'm one of the ones who recommended his case to the Innocence Project because that was one of my jobs as the inmate lawyer at the prison," Duncan explained.

For Duncan, returning home was a culture shock. "It was overwhelming, having been in prison for 28 and a half years, cell phones weren't in existence. That was one of the things that really just freaked me out," Duncan said.

John Thompson says beyond the advances in technology and changing landscape of New Orleans, the biggest obstacle he had to overcome was his anger at the criminal justice system. It's something that he thinks Reginald Adams will have to face as well, even after an apology from District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. "To Mr. Adams, I offer a sincere apology, I offer the apology both personally and behalf of a much different District Attorney's office then the office that prosecuted him nearly three decades ago," Cannizzaro said Monday.

Adam's family was with him at criminal court Monday. His lawyers say the family has been with him every step of the way, and will be there now as he begins a new life outside prison walls.

Adams was originally convicted in 1983 of murdering a police officer's wife, but there was no evidence linking him to the crime except for a taped confession, which he said was coerced. Cannizzaro said two other people were tied to the murder, but were never arrested and have since died.

Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.

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