Inmate sues FBI over evidence

NEW ORLEANS — Death row inmate Rogers Lacaze has sued the FBI and U.S. Justice Department, saying they have evidence that could help prove he is innocent of helping his cousin — then a rookie policewoman — kill her one-time patrol partner and two others in a restaurant holdup in March 1995.

He and Antoinette Frank were convicted later that year, in separate trials, of killing Ronald Williams, an officer working off-duty as a restaurant guard, and two of the owners’ children, Cuong Vu and Ha Vu

The federal lawsuit filed Nov. 9 in Washington contends that Frank’s accomplice was her brother, Adam Frank, and claims that the FBI has background information on Adam Frank that would support the allegation.

Lacaze at one point confessed to being at the restaurant while Frank gunned down the victims, but later said police coerced the confession. He has long had a website asserting that he is innocent. Adam Frank is in state prison for an unrelated robbery.

At trial, Antoinette Frank said Lacaze shot all three. He said she was the shooter.

The Freedom of Information lawsuit says Adam Frank was arrested in Rayville in 1988 after witnesses heard him “bragging about killing a New Orleans police officer,” escaped the next day, and was recaptured within a month carrying a 9mm Beretta 92G.

“This was the same caliber, make and model as the weapon that ... the state alleged was used to commit the 1995 murders,” the lawsuit alleges.

The handgun used in the murders was never found. The lawsuit says investigators believe it was one from the New Orleans Police Department’s evidence and property room which Antoinette Frank reported stolen weeks before the killings.

The serial number on the pistol Adam Frank had was rubbed off, but crime lab personnel recovered part of it, and it matched the one from the evidence room, according to Lacaze’s lawsuit.

It also asks for Adam Frank’s FBI rap sheet, which attorneys say was withheld as “privileged” from documents that prosecutors had to turn over for post-conviction proceedings.

The FBI and Justice Department were not willing to confirm or deny whether any such records exist, according to the lawsuit. The officials demand that it be clearly shown that any benefit to releasing the information would outweigh privacy concerns for Adam Frank. Lacaze’s complaint argues that the potential of the documents to exonerate him qualifies as an adequate reason.