An Orleans Parish jury has acquitted a man of murder and kidnapping charges in the killing of a 15-year-old girl, but he still faces what could be decades in prison for a conviction on obstruction of justice.
The Criminal District Court jury Tuesday found Eric Adams, 23, not guilty of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping.
However, Adams was convicted of obstruction of justice for failing to turn over a cellphone he used on the night of the crime after police got a search warrant.
He faces up to 40 years in prison on that count at a Sept. 21 sentencing date in front of Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier.
Investigators contended Adams shot and killed Christine Marcelin in a remote area of New Orleans East on April 30, 2012. Three days earlier, Adams’ younger brother Brandon had been shot and killed in the Desire neighborhood.
Detectives believed that Eric Adams blamed Marcelin for his brother’s killing. Marcelin and Brandon Adams, both 15, were students at the same school and were dating.
No one has ever been arrested in Brandon Adams' death.
“We were ecstatic with the results of the charges that were found not guilty,” defense attorney Greg Carter said. “We were very happy to give his mother a small sense of peace, since we know she never really got the opportunity to grieve for her younger son who was killed, because not long after that, they went after her oldest son.”
The week-long trial featured wrenching testimony from the mothers of both victims. But with little physical evidence, the prosecution’s case hinged on a pair of men who said they heard Adams admit to the killing while he was being held in the New Orleans jail on an unrelated charge.
Defense attorneys Carter and John Fuller took aim at the credibility of those men as well as of detectives and the prosecutors. They charged that Assistant District Attorney Alex Calenda had organized the inmates' testimony against Adams.
Calenda rebutted those allegations and said in his closing argument that Adams was the only person with the motive to kill a girl he thought was behind his brother’s death.
Three years passed between the killing and the murder charge against Adams. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said Wednesday that his office was faced with a case that had gone cold before the inmates decided to tell their stories.
“During our investigation of another gang-related homicide, we learned about Eric Adams,” he said. “If it’s not for the cooperative effort of the Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, our office and the Police Department, I’m not sure Eric Adams ever goes to trial.”
Cannizzaro acknowledged that jurors had to weigh the testimony of witnesses with a criminal history with care.
“We could have said we’re just going to ignore or disregard the statements of people from jail,” he said. “We believed it was important enough to present it to the jury and let the jury make the call, so I don’t have any regrets or qualms.”
He also defended the work of Calenda against the defense attorneys.
“It’s very unprofessional to say the least, probably unethical at most, for them to engage in that tactic during the course of the trial,” he said. “Mr. Calenda is an extremely competent lawyer. He plays by the rules. He has always played by the rules.”
Cannizzaro said he is hopeful that Flemings-Davillier will hand Adams a lengthy sentence on the obstruction conviction.
“She certainly is in a better position to just maybe see through some things the jury could not see because of her experience,” he said.
Adams still faces a count of sexual battery in a separate case.