A Troy man whose coerced confession was thrown out by the Court of Appeals has been acquitted at retrial of charges that he murdered his four-month-old son.
Adrian Thomas, 32, was found not guilty by a Rensselaer County jury on Thursday after a two-week trial.
Thomas’ second-degree murder conviction was overturned in February when the high court unanimously held that a 9 1/2 hour interrogation, in which Troy police used deception and subterfuge to secure a confession, overwhelmed the defendant’s free will and rendered his statement involuntary (NYLJ, Feb. 21).
The Thomas case, which sparked an award-winning documentary, was the first in Rensselaer County in which authorities had videotaped an entire interrogation. The videotape showed that police repeatedly lied to Thomas, threatened to arrest his wife, falsely claimed that his wife had implicated him and, after misleading the defendant and telling him that his son’s life could be saved if he revealed what had happened, persuaded him to throw a binder on the ground in a demonstration of how he had abused the child.
Then-Rensselaer County Public Defender Jerome Frost argued that the conviction was both coerced and false and persuaded a unanimous Court of Appeals to order a retrial before Rensselaer County Judge Andrew Ceresia. At retrial, defense attorney Stephen Coffey of O’Connell and Aronowitz in Albany presented proof that the sickly baby had died of a sepsis infection.
Assistant Rensselaer County District Attorney Christa Book re-tried the case for the prosecution.
The documentary, “Scenes of a Crime” by California filmmakers Grover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh, has been honored by the American Bar Association and other organizations (http://scenesofacrime.com/dvd-for-legal-practitioners/).