Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.









Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 12, 1973
Date of birth: May 30, 1936
Victim profile: Millonaire rancher Edgar Brown
Method of murder: Beating with a fireplace poker
Location: St. Lucie County, Florida, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Florida on May 10, 1984
clemency petition

James Adams, 47, became the first black man executed in Florida since 1964 when he was electrocuted May 10, 1984, for the beating death of millionaire Fort Pierce rancher Edgar Brown.

Brown was beaten to death with a fireplace poker during a 1973 robbery. Adams' Rambler was seen leaving the scene. Later, items from Brown's house were found in a car belonging to Adams' wife.

At the time, Adams had escaped from a prison in Tennessee where he was serving a 99-year sentence for rape.

Racism and innocence were the basis for his unsuccessful appeals.

Name/DOC # James Adams
Address Florida State Prison/deceased
Date of Birth May 30, 1936
Race Black
Date of Crime November 12, 1973, Ft. Pierce, FL
Age Time of Crime 37
Date Sentenced March 15, 1974
Victims Edgar Brown
Race of Victims White
Relationship to Defendant Did some work for him
Summary of Facts Alleged by State

Adams entered victim's home to rob him and when Brown returned, he bludgeoned him to death with a fire poker

County of Trial St. Lucie
Trial Judge Wallace Sample
Trial Attorney N. Richard Schopp, Port. St. Lucie, FL and Bruce Wilkinson, Stuart, FL
Prosecutors R. N. Koblegard, Raymond E. Ford
Trial By Jury voted 7-5 for death penalty
Race of Jurors White-all male
Convicted of Capital murder
Confession No, always claimed innocence
Accomplice Testimony No
Eyewitness Testimony

Yes: Foy Hortman spoke with person leaving house where murder committed; viewed lineup and stated "not Adams"

Forensic Testimony Hairs found in victim's hand were not from Adams
Jailhouse Snitch No
Defendant Testimony Yes: maintained innocence
Principal Exculpatory Evidence Alibi, playing cards at friend's house; hair in hand of victim not his
Sentencing Authority Jury; judge had override
Statutory Aggravating Factor

Previous (unconstitutional) conviction for rape of a white woman in TN in 1962

Non-Statutory Aggravating Factor Race
Mitigating Factors 12th of 14 children in family of impoverished sharecroppers; no witnesses called by defense in penalty phase
Mental Retardation or Neurological Damage No
Criminal History

Previous conviction for rape of white woman in TN; conviction for stealing a pig in 1976, had no counsel

Appellate History

1976 FL Supreme Court affirmed conviction and death sentence; USSC refused to intervene and to reconsider decision, 2977; 1978 FL Supreme Court denied relief on info not known to defense;1978 U.S. supreme Court would not intervene;1978 Petition for rehearing–U.S Supreme court invited State to respond but denied petition in 1979

1980 Gov. Graham signed death warrant; PCR denied

1980 FL Supreme Court affirmed above; Fed. District Court granted stay; writ denied; 1983,11th Circuit Ct. of Appeals affirmed; Jan. and Feb.

1984 U.S. Supreme Court refused to review or reconsider; April 12, 1984 2nd death warrant

Supreme Court, U.S. District Court. denied relief; May 8, 1984 11th Circuit granted stay on racial Disparities; vacated by U.S. Supreme Court-Blackmun, Brennan, Marshall, & Stevens dissented.

Ineffective Assistance? Yes
Police Misconduct? Unknown
Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Suppression of forensics on hair in hand of victim until 3 days after sentencing

Appellate Counsel Richard Burr and Craig Barnard



On May 10, 1984, the State of Florida, with the acquiescence of the federal government, executed James Adams in the electric chair. The state and federal governments failed to ensure Adams's right to a fair and impartial trial. The unfair and racially discriminatory trial resulted in Adams's execution.


On the morning of November 12, 1973 at approximately 10:30 a.m., Edgar Brown was beaten with a fire poker in the course of an alleged robbery in his home. He died in the hospital the next day as a result of the beating. Adams was arrested, tried, and convicted of his murder.

Salient Issues

  • The one eyewitness who saw and spoke to a person leaving the house where the murder was committed originally said that he was certain Adams was not the person. At trial, this eyewitness testified that Adams "may or may not" have been the person to whom he spoke.

  • One of the witnesses, Vivian Nickerson, borrowed Adams's car shortly before the murder. This witness had a masculine appearance and fit many of the characteristics described by the eyewitness, but she was never included in any photo array or lineup.

  • According to Vivian Nickerson's original sworn statement, Adams was at her house at the time of the murder while she used his car. At trial, she testified to a different time-frame, alleging that Adams arrived after the time of the murder. The defense failed to impeach her testimony by raising the inconsistency between her two statements.

  • According to the Florida State Crime Lab, hair found in the victim's hand was not from Adams. This evidence was released three days after Adams was sentenced and then suppressed by the state.

  • A small bloodstain on one of the dollar bills in Adams's possession was consistent with the victim's blood type, but also with 45 percent of people living in the United States.

  • The one positive identification of Adams as the driver of the car seen in the victim's driveway was made by a man who accused Adams of having an affair with his wife, for which he had threatened revenge.

  • At the trial, Adams's criminal record was used by the prosecution to prejudice the jury, and it was a determining factor in Adams's conviction and death sentence.

  • Prosecutors used Adams's prior rape conviction, which was likely unconstitutional because he was tried without a lawyer, as an aggravating circumstance in the penalty phase of his trial to secure the death sentence.

  • At the penalty phase of the trial, Adams's defense attorney did not present mitigating evidence or challenge the prosecution's use of a racially-biased prior conviction.

  • Throughout the trial, Adams was referred to as "nigger" by both the prosecution and his own defense counsel.

  • Prior to closing arguments, a private conference was held at which both the trial judge and prosecutor agreed that there was "no pre-meditation," which should have exempted Adams from a death sentence.

  • The jury voted to convict Adams of capital murder. At sentencing, the vote for death was 7 to 5.


James Adams was convicted of capital murder on circumstantial evidence and on evidence that was contradictory. On the morning of the crime, Adams's car had been seen traveling to and from the victim's house and had been parked in the victim's driveway. One witness reported that he thought Adams was driving the car towards the victim's house shortly before the robbery and assault.

A second witness positively identified Adams as the driver of the car seen leaving the victim's home. This witness reportedly stated that he would testify against Adams because he believed that Adams was having an affair with his wife. However, the only witness to see a person leaving the victim's house at the approximate time of the crime provided a description that did not fit Adams. After viewing a police line-up in which Adams was included, this witness was "positive" that Adams was not the person with whom he spoke. At trial, the same witness who could not pick Adams out of a lineup testified that Adams may or may not have been the person he saw leaving the house.

Adams said he was at the house of a friend, Vivian Nickerson, from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on the day of the murder. Nickerson initially confirmed Adams's alibi and stated that she had borrowed Adams's car before 10:30 a.m. At trial, she changed her testimony to say that Adams did not arrive at her house before 11:00 a.m. Adams's attorney did not question the inconsistency of her statements. Although the state crime lab found that strands of hair on the victim were not from Adams, the crime lab report was not released until three days after the trial.

Race was a factor throughout the trial. During the trial, both the prosecution and the defense referred to Adams as "nigger." The prosecution repeatedly raised Adams's prior conviction for rape in terms of the race of the victim. The fact that Adams had raped a white woman - not that he had merely committed rape - was the aggravating circumstance used by the state to secure a sentence of death, despite the fact that Adams had never before been convicted of a crime punishable by death.


The Florida Supreme Court upheld Adams's sentence in December 1976, and certiorari was denied on October 3, 1977. He received a stay of execution by the Florida Supreme Court in April 1978. The U.S. Supreme Court continued his stay so he could file his writ of certiorari, which was denied October 30, 1978. He had a clemency hearing November 5, 1979.

His first death warrant was signed January 9, 1980. The Florida Supreme Court denied a stay, but he obtained one from the Southern District Court in February of 1980. His writ was denied in an unpublished opinion, and in July of 1983 the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial. On January 11, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, and on April 12, 1984, his second death warrant was signed. All relief was then denied in the courts, and on May 9, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated his stay. He was executed the next day.


James Adams was executed despite undisputed evidence of racial discrimination and compelling evidence of innocence. James Adams did not receive a fair trial. His court-appointed lawyers failed to lodge a competent defense, the state withheld evidence, and both the prosecution and defense were racially-biased and used racist remarks, which served to bias the jury. Nonetheless, by denying all appeals, both state and federal appeals courts upheld both Adams's conviction and his death sentence.



home last updates contact