A Real Life Sequel to ‘The Thin Blue Line’ Randall Dale Adams’ Obscure Death!

On November 27, 1976, at 12:30 AM, a Dallas police officer (Robert Wood), patrolling Hampton Road in West Dallas, decides to stop a blue Mercury Comet (not a blue Vega), just to warn the driver to turn his headlights on. Instead, as Officer Wood approaches the driver’s side of this petite vehicle, the young man sticks a small caliber pistol out of the window and fires four or five times.

Last week when the West Memphis 3 were freed, I needed to see the HBO documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. I knew this documentary had made a sizeable contribution towards allowing these three men to be free once again. A comment made in the book Devil’s Knot (by Mara Leveritt) by the HBO filmmakers (Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger) got my attention.

Somewhere in the book, they indicated that the most influential documentary ever made, in terms of actually getting a death conviction reversed, was Errol Morris’ 1988 film, The Thin Blue Line. While the humble, yet innovative documentary was certainly no blockbuster, it pinched a nerve in just the right circles, and exposed some corruption at the District Attorney’s Office in Dallas (specifically, with prosecutor Doug Mulder).

I’ve seen The Thin Blue Line many times before, since it is my favorite film of this genre for all time, but I needed to see it again yesterday, because I wanted to see for myself just how the DA had framed Randall Dale Adams in the first place, and how they had let the real killer of Officer Wood off the hook (David Harris).

randall dale adams
Randall Dale Adams on The Thin Blue Line.

Right at the end of the one hour and forty minute film, you see and hear a portable cassette deck with the voice of David Harris confessing to the crime (as Errol Morris interviews him), in a round-about-way, sequestered in riddle. To clarify, I don’t intend to recall or analyze this historic documentary at this juncture, but rather to flesh out a new story for you, that didn’t come to light until Sunday.

As I watched The Thin Blue Line, I did some research on the internet using a Randall Dale Adams’ search. I read over the Wikipedia entry, and discovered something under the citations that gave me chills. An Associated Press article (Texas exoneree featured in ‘Thin Blue Line’ dies by Linda Stewart Ball), originally posted on June 25, 2011 at 12:27 AM, reveals that Randall Dale, 61, died of a brain tumor on October 30, 2010.

This was news to me! Randall’s death was just reported two months ago (by way of The Dallas Morning News initially). His death wasn’t made public until eight months after it occurred. Why? The reason given, was the family and Randall himself wanted to keep it private, under the radar screen of the media. To read between the lines, I suspect that Adams was not only skeptical about the Criminal Justice System, but also, perhaps, paranoid of the media.

randall adams news story
A news story tells how the real killer, David Harris, testified that Randall Adams was the trigger man of Officer Wood.

For an individual such as himself, who had been framed several times over, this would be a logical stance to take. But I needed more biographical information. What happened to Randall after he got out of jail? I wanted so much more. I heard he moved around a lot. Ohio to Texas to New York. One item caught my eye most. After leaving jail, he had a simple job filling vending machines at an unidentified location in Texas, but got fired when his employer found out he had been in jail previously and on Death Row no less!

Adams’ bad luck remained after his well-deserved vindication of killing Officer Wood. That’s wrong, he wasn’t exactly vindicated, but rather it was actually the exposed perjury of a spicy West Dallas witness, Emily Miller, that unwinds this judicial fiasco!

But the story is incomplete. What happened to Randall Adams from 1989-2010? Just to be in open air must have been nice, since he came short by just two days of lethal injection in May of 1979.

*Note: Another item of news (to me) was that David Harris was executed for another murder in 2004. In the end, justice was served.

Randall Adams, 61, Dies; Freed With Help of Film by Douglas Martin – The New York Times – June 25, 2011