Adrian Thomas, the man at the center of the award-winning documentary “Scenes of a Crime” (Filmmaker Magazine’s Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, Grand Jury Prize Winner at Full Frame and DOC NYC), has not been granted an appeal, a state court has ruled, according to reports. The compelling documentary, which opens in New York on Friday, offers a strong case for Thomas’ innocence and striking scientific evidence that suggests Thomas was wrongly convicted and a confession was coerced by police.
In upholding the conviction, the Appellate Division, rejected Thomas’ claim that investigators used “false promises, misrepresentations and threats” during nine hours of interrogation that took place over two days.
“This is a huge setback for him and his legal team,” co-director Grover Babcock tells me. “In essence, the five justices said that the conduct of the original trial was acceptable, but reading the ruling suggests they were not at all disturbed by the interrogation procedures, or willing to consider that the verdict was mistaken.”
On the “Scenes of a Crime” website, they include an unofficial transcript from the appellate proceedings that they argue 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.
Adrian Thomas’s defense attorneys continue to pursue his appeal, though New York courts are under no obligation to consider further claims.