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WOMAN REGAINS INNOCENCE; MURDER DEFENDANT'S RECORD ORDERED WIPED CLEAN OF ARREST.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Staff Writer

Found not guilty by a jury of clubbing her husband to death, Jeanie Adair won greater vindication Friday when a judge took a rare step of declaring her innocent, allowing her to say she was never arrested or even charged with the crime.

San Fernando Superior Court Judge L. Jeffrey Wiatt cited six reasons why he believes Adair did not kill Robert Adair on Nov. 5, 1996, including what he said was contradictory blood evidence and her lack of motive.

``There is no reasonable cause to believe that Jeanie Adair committed the offense for which the arrest was made,'' Wiatt said. He allowed prosecutors time to appeal before finalizing his decision.

The 39-year-old mother of two did not attend the hearing, but through her attorney said she was pleased with Wiatt's ruling.

``He did the right thing, thank God,'' Adair was quoted as telling her attorney, Richard Plotin. ``This is the second-best Christmas present we've received this year.''

A jury acquitted her Oct. 18 of murdering her husband in their Sylmar condominium, but that meant only that the prosecution failed to establish her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Not satisfied, Adair sought to be declared factually innocent in a bid to clear her record for employment and other purposes.

With Wiatt's ruling, police must destroy any record of Adair's arrest and seal the trial file.

``It's extremely rare,'' said Erwin Chemerinsky, professor of law at the University of Southern California. ``Most criminal defendants are satisfied to be found not guilty. They have their freedom.''

Also, by the time a case goes to trial, the courts usually are satisfied that enough evidence exists to justify the arrest and prosecution, he said.

According to Adair's attorney, she hopes the ruling will quell public suspicion that she got away with murder.

``It's as if she had never been arrested, as if she never had gone through this nightmare,'' Plotin said. ``It really vindicates her.''

Adair did not attend the hearing because she had the flu, said Plotin, who told her of the ruling by cell phone as TV news crews filmed the call.

Outside of court, the relatives of Robert Adair still insist she is the killer, even though doing so may put them at risk of being sued for slander by Adair.

``She's guilty until the day she dies,'' said the victim's mother, Margarita Ruffino-Sutcliffe.

After declaring her innocent, Wiatt suspended the destruction and sealing of records until at least Jan. 7, when prosecutors are expected to announce if they will appeal the ruling.

``To find her factually innocent to me is an outrage,'' said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Marsh Goldstein, who has repeatedly complained that Wiatt's rulings against the prosecution on various motions cost them the case. ``It adds insult to injury.''

Wiatt did not require Adair to testify, as the prosecutor urged, but instead relied on evidence from the trial, which included the information that Adair stood to receive about $400,000 in life insurance.

Adair claimed a home-invasion robber beat her husband to death and injured her, but prosecutors said she faked her injuries.

Throughout the trial, Plotin hinted at a dark conspiracy whereby Adair's affair with a doctor angered the man's wife so much that she sent a thug to rough up Adair. Robert Adair was killed, Plotin has suggested, when he inadvertently interrupted the attack.

``I don't see there's any motivation on the part of Jeanie Adair to murder her husband based on the grounds of Jeanie Adair's infidelity,'' Wiatt said. ``It might be the other case if Robert Adair was cheating on his wife, but that wasn't the case.''

Having presided over the trial and taken copious notes, Wiatt said he had heard enough to believe Adair was innocent.

First off, he said it was significant that none of the victim's blood was found on Adair, which seemed unlikely had she just crushed his skull with violent blows from a bat at close range.

Wiatt said he did not believe Adair had enough time to change into fresh clothes and drive somewhere to dispose of blood-soaked clothes.

And he did not believe Adair inflicted her own injuries, including a severe back injury.

The case is far from over, as seen by the latest twists in this drawn-out legal saga.

Just as the hearing was concluding Friday, Goldstein said Adair is under criminal investigation, although he refused to say for what or which agency is involved.

``There may very well be a parallel investigation into other charges against the defendant,'' Goldstein said, who declined to elaborate. Double jeopardy laws shield Adair from being charged again with the murder.

An outraged Plotin shot back that he is doing his own investigation into the murder to find the killer, and he will forward the results to the state Attorney General's Office if county prosecutors refuse to act on his findings.

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Photo: (color) Jeanie Adair was acquitted in her husband's death, but the judge took it further.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 11, 1999
Words:837
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