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William Walker

Other Ohio Cases with Mistaken Witness Identifications
At about 11:30 p.m. on March 20, 2002, a clerk at a Dairy Mart in Canton, Ohio, reported to police that a black man wearing a hooded sweatshirt entered the store and, acting as if he were armed with a gun, demanded money and cigarettes. The clerk handed over money from the cash register and some cigarettes and the man fled.

The clerk, Terry Erb, who was white, said the robber was a black man with a goatee who had been in the store at 9:30 p.m. that night and walked out with some beer without paying for it—a scam Erb called a “beer run.”

Erb told police that a customer told him that the man who left the store with the beer got into a car, and provided a license plate number for the car. Canton police checked the license plate number and determined the car was registered to 36-year-old William Walker who had been previously convicted of drug possession.

The detectives put a photograph of Walker into a photographic lineup and Erb identified Walker as the robber in both the “beer run” and the robbery.

In September 2002, Walker was charged with aggravated robbery. He went to trial in Stark County Court of Common Pleas in October 2002. Erb identified Walker as the robber and said he recognized him as the man who made the “beer run” two hours before the robbery.

Walker’s lawyer presented no evidence in Walker’s defense. On October 16, 2002, the jury convicted Walker of the lesser-included offense of robbery. At sentencing, Walker told the judge, “There is the chance that—the possibility that I was at the Crisis Center on the 20th (the day of the crime). I didn’t really have anyone to look into that because I figured with the (store video) tape that would be enough…. I would ask the Court to look—if we could check into that before sentencing.” The store video was not played for the jury at trial, and Walker’s request to the trial judge was ignored. Walker was sentenced to three years in prison.

Walker was appointed a new attorney to handle his appeal and following an investigation, a motion for a new trial was filed in December 2002. A hearing was held in February 2003 during which a witness testified that Walker was at the Crisis Intervention Center of Stark County in Canton from 9:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.—the same time that the clerk said Walker was making the “beer run”—requesting a detox bed for alcohol and crack cocaine.

Records from the crisis center showed there was no bed available, so Walker was given a voucher for a taxi. Cab records showed that Walker was driven to his mother’s home and was dropped off at 10:45 p.m. Walker’s mother testified that he was in her home until 3:30 p.m. the next day.

The motion for a new trial was granted and the prosecution appealed. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in 2004, holding that the evidence was not “newly discovered,” because Walker knew where he was.

Walker then filed a post-conviction petition for a new trial claiming his trial defense attorney had provided a constitutionally deficient defense by failing to investigate his alibi.

That petition was granted in November 2004 and his conviction was vacated. The court held that Walker’s lawyer was aware of the alibi defense but failed to investigate it and failed to assert an alibi defense at trial.

Walker, who had been released on bond in May 2003, went to trial a second time in February 2005 before a judge who heard the case without a jury. The alibi evidence was presented and on February 15, 2005, the judge acquitted Walker.

Walker subsequently was awarded $85,865 in compensation by the state of Ohio.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/14/2015
State:Ohio
County:Stark
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Convicted:2002
Exonerated:2005
Sentence:3 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:36
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No