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Xavier Walker

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with false confessions
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Xavier_Walker.jpeg
Shortly after 1 a.m. on May 13, 2000, 29-year-old Marek Majdak was robbed and fatally shot. The shooting occurred on the 4700 block of West Ohio Street on the west side of Chicago, Illinois.

Two weeks later, on May 27, 2000, police brought Maurice Wright in for questioning. When he said he didn’t know anything about the shooting, a detective punched him in the face and upper body. Wright later said that detectives threatened to charge him with the murder and take away his mother’s foster children if he did not tell them who committed the murder. Wright then told police that 19-year-old Xavier Walker had confided in him that 21-year-old Jovanie Long had killed Majdak.

The following day, police arrested Walker and put him in an interrogation room with his hands cuffed to a ring on the wall. After loosening one of his hands, detectives then began questioning him. Walker denied involvement in the crime. Detectives then punched and slapped him in the face four times. Walker later said that police cursed at him and repeatedly told him to “shut up, little bitch.”

After several hours, police told him he would be released if he cooperated and told the story they gave to him. If he didn’t cooperate, they said, he would get 50 years in prison. Walker said the officers fed him details of the crime. He said that he was finally given his Miranda warning by a prosecutor who took his statement that he acted as the lookout for Long, who robbed and shot Majdak.

On May 30, 2000, Walker was interviewed by Deborah Bedsole, an attorney from First Defense Legal Aid. Walker told Bedsole that he had been physically abused and falsely confessed. He also told Bedsole that during a break in his interrogation, when he was alone, someone in the adjacent room banged on the wall and told him to “be cool” so the officers would stop beating him. Walker said that when he asked who was there, a voice said, “Bubble,” the nickname of Antwoine Waddy, an acquaintance. Walker said he told Waddy that the officers were beating him and wanted him to say he was with Long when he was not.

Subsequently, Long was arrested and charged with Marek’s murder. Walker and Long went to trial in 2004 in Cook County Circuit Court. Both chose to have their case decided by Judge Marcus Salone without a jury.

The prosecution’s evidence primarily rested on Walker’s confession. Maurice Wright, whose statement prompted police to pick up Walker, recanted on the witness stand and said he was beaten and threatened with the loss of his mother’s foster children unless he implicated Walker.

Detectives testified and denied that they physically abused Wright or Walker.

Although Walker’s defense attorney knew about Walker’s statement to attorney Bedsole immediately after his interrogation, Bedsole was not called to rebut the detectives’ testimony. The defense also failed to call Waddy to testify that he heard from an adjacent interrogation room that Walker was being beaten.

On June 22, 2004, Judge Salone convicted Walker and Long of first-degree murder. In January 2005, Walker was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Long was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Walker’s appeals were rejected. In 2007, acting without a lawyer, Walker filed a post-conviction petition seeking to vacate his conviction based on the failure of his trial defense lawyer to call alibi witnesses.

In 2015, after the case was re-assigned to Cook County assistant public defender Harold Winston, an amended petition was filed. The petition said that the trial defense attorney was aware of numerous witnesses who would have testified to Walker’s whereabouts before and after the shooting.

Two witnesses, Simeon Dorsey and Deon Baylock, were with Walker at Walker’s home up until about 1:45 a.m., when Walker’s sister, Shunralyn, agreed to lend Walker her car so that he could go out. Shunralyn said she would have testified that she didn’t want to lend her car to Walker because she didn’t want him to go clubbing. By 1:45 a.m., she was sure that it was too late for Walker to go to any club.

Two other witnesses, Marvin Mosley and Charles Toles, said they would have testified that they did go to a club and were with Walker, Dorsey, and Baylock. In addition, they said that on the way, Walker had picked up Long, who also came to the club.

Dorsey and Baylock said that when they picked up Long at his home near 4800 West Ohio Street—just doors away from where Majdak was shot—there were a lot of police around. When they asked what was going on, Long said that someone had been shot. He was heard talking about the shooting at the club as well.

The petition said that Walker’s trial defense lawyer had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call these witnesses as well as Bedsole and Waddy, who could have supported Walker’s claim of being physically abused by the detectives. The petition said that not only did Bedsole see physical evidence of Walker’s injuries from the beating, but that photographs were taken and never offered into evidence.

The petition said that Waddy had given a sworn statement that he heard Walker shouting “I was not with Jovanie” during the interrogation. Waddy said that he was also being interrogated about the shooting and was slapped in the head. He said he was released without making a statement.

In July 2018, following a review of the case by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit, the prosecution agreed that Walker’s conviction should be vacated. Assistant public defender Julie Koehler took over as lead attorney joining Winston, and assistant public defender Robert Drizin joined the team. More than a year later, on December 11, 2019, Walker’s lawyers came to the courtroom of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Alfredo Maldonado prepared to question witnesses during a hearing on a motion to suppress Walker’s confession prior to a retrial.

Instead, the prosecution dismissed the charge and Walker was released. After the dismissal, Koehler said that Walker was “just so obviously innocent. Every time I would look at his parents, I would think, ‘I have to get their boy home.’”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/2/2020
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2000
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:35 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No