Adrian Thomas Case Updates

On February 20, 2014, Adrian Thomas’s conviction was overturned by New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Adrian Thomas’s re-trial began May 27, 2014. On June 12, 2014 he was found “NOT GUILTY” and released. Current updates on the re-trial and aftermath can be found on the film’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

In its February decision, the Court of Appeals found the interrogation procedures “coercive” and the confession “involuntary,” and ordered a retrial without the confession statements. The Court did not make a ruling about the use of interrogation experts in court, since the confession statements have now been suppressed.

The decision can be found on the Court of Appeals website as “No. 18: People v. Adrian P. Thomas”: Court of Appeals

Associated Press coverage by Michael Virtanen: “NY Court: Some Police Lies to Suspects Are Unfair”

Previous case developments are listed below, starting from the more recent.

JAN. 14, 2014: PEOPLE v. ADRIAN THOMAS was argued in New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, along with People v. Aveni, on the subject of police interrogation methods, and the use of interrogation experts in court. Decision is expected in late February. Video archive of arguments will be posted soon to: “Court of Appeals”.

Associated Press: “NY court asked: When do police lies become unfair?”

Oct 23, 2012: New York’s highest court – the Court of Appeals – will hear the Adrian Thomas appeal. Schedule for the case has not yet been determined.

Acceptance to the Court of Appeals is rare: John Caher of NY Law Journal writes that in 2011 “only 91 [leave applications], about 4 percent, were granted.” Caher’s full article is here: “Court of Appeals Will Take Up Issue of Police Deceiving Suspects” (paywall)

The Court’s eventual decision may affect more than Adrian Thomas: it could make precedent on police interrogation tactics, voluntariness of confessions and the use of courtroom experts on questions of false confession.

A lower court rejected the Thomas appeal earlier in 2012; coverage of that earlier decision is below.

MARCH 2012: Adrian Thomas had an appeals hearing November 15, 2011 in the State of New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, in Albany, New York.

Four months later, the court issued a decision (March 22, 2012). The justices affirmed the conduct of the original trial, with no dissents.

See Reuters Story: “Father’s confession in infant murder case not coerced: appeals court”

See AP Story: “NY court rejects coerced confession claim”

See New York Law Journal Story: “With Judges Seeing No Coersion in Tapes, Murder Verdict Upheld”

The following exchange from the appellate hearing highlights the lack of evidence implicating Adrian Thomas, outside of the disputed confession statements:

Justice Egan Jr.: Is there any direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt, other than the statements he made to the police?

ADA Gordon Eddy: No, no: I will concede that your honor that this case would not have been legally sufficient without the defendant’s test – without the defendant’s confession.

Justice Egan Jr.: So if the confession – the statement goes out –

ADA Eddy: I think the –

Justice Egan Jr.: The conviction fails?

Justice Malone Jr.: Whether or not we dismiss the indictment?

ADA Eddy: Right.

Justice Malone Jr.: This isn’t going to trial – this isn’t going to trial again without the defendant’s –

ADA Eddy: I can’t speak to what the people in my office would do, but my own assessment is that without the confession we’d have a very steep uphill climb. That said I think the confession was properly admitted.

(transcript unofficial)

Adrian Thomas’s defense attorneys continue to pursue his appeal, though New York courts are under no obligation to consider further claims.