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Moses Walker


Moses Walker, a black man living in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, was convicted of the attempted murder of Howard Harrington, a white man, in early 1907. Only after Harrington died did his wife come forward and admit that Harrington had made up the story of the attempted murder and had falsely accused Walker of a crime.
 
In the fall of 1906, Moses Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder for allegedly trying to kill one of his neighbors, Howard Harrington. Walker’s trial before Judge R.F. Cochran began on January 18, 1907. The prosecutor, J.H. Currie, offered evidence that someone had shot through Harrington’s open window one evening the previous autumn while Harrington was at home reading. The bullet had missed Harrington and struck the wall. Harrington said that he had then heard someone running away from his house. The police had discovered footprints leading from Harrington’s house towards Walker’s house, along with mule tracks. A witness traveling nearby also said that he had seen a mule hitched in the area, which he identified as Walker’s mule. At Walker’s house, the police discovered a piece of soft metal similar to that used to make the bullet that was lodged in Harrington’s wall. Currie argued that the motive for the crime was the mutual dislike between Walker and Harrington.
 
The defense argued that since the testimony given against Walker was circumstantial and the testimony was not strong, it should be excluded. Judge Cochran ruled that the evidence was strong enough to go to a jury, which could judge the worth of the evidence. In his defense, Walker testified that he knew nothing of the shooting or the piece of metal that had been found by his house, save what he had learned because of the charges against him. He claimed to have no hard feelings towards Harrington. Walker said that he had been working with his mule until the late afternoon, after which he put away the mule and fed him. He testified that he had not left his house that night. Walker’s family corroborated his statements.
 
The jury found Moses Walker guilty, and he was sentenced to ten years of hard labor in the State Penitentiary. The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed Walker’s conviction.
 
Five years into Walker’s prison sentence, Harrington was killed in a fight. Harrington’s widow then told her father that Harrington had framed Walker for the attempted shooting because of his dislike for Walker. In fact, Harrington had shot through his own window and manufactured the other evidence used against Walker at trial. Harrington’s widow said that she had not told anyone before because her husband threatened to kill her if she did. After Mrs. Harrington’s father was convinced that his daughter was telling the truth, he had a petition for Walker’s pardon published.
 
On April 15, 1912, Mississippi Governor Earl Brewer pardoned Moses Walker.
 
In 1930, Moses Walker’s case was presented to the Mississippi Legislature, which granted Walker five hundred dollars “as a partial recompense for the wrongful imprisonment and detention ... in the State Penitentiary for approximately five years.” Walker stated that he held no hard feelings towards the justice system; he only blamed Harrington for what had happened to him.
 
— Researched by Susan Sperling
State:MS
County:Lauderdale
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Reported Crime Date:1906
Convicted:1907
Exonerated:1912
Sentence:10 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation