Randall Adams

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When I first met Randall Adams--who died last October at 61 but whose death was first widely reported on June 24--he was just another inmate. I was interviewing people on death row, and he told me he was innocent of the murder of a Dallas police officer. There was no particular reason to believe him, yet very early on, I began to develop suspicions about whether they had gotten the right man. I became involved in an investigation of the case that went on for more than two years. At the end of the filming of my movie The Thin Blue Line, David Harris, another inmate, confessed that he was responsible.

Randall's case is not the first story about an innocent man sentenced to death, but it is a watershed case. It should serve as an example of how justice can readily be turned into terrible injustice. If anything is to be remembered about this case, it's that he so easily could have been executed. The fact that he wasn't was luck. It's hard to imagine what it means to be sentenced to death for a crime you didn't commit, to keep saying you're innocent, and people don't believe you. It's one of those true, waking nightmares that very few of us ever have to experience. That he was able to keep any kind of equanimity and sanity through all of it is quite remarkable in and of itself.

Morris is an Academy Award--winning documentarian whose films include The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War