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Jamal Walker

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with no crime
On October 28, 2015, Chicago police officers Matthew Diblich and Darren Ohle, as well as several other officers, executed a search warrant at a second-floor apartment at 4249 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois. The search warrant, which Diblich had prepared, said that an informant reported that Pierre Walker was in possession of a firearm at the apartment.

When police entered the apartment, they found several people, including 31-year-old Jamal Walker, his brother, Antoine, their uncle, and others. In a bedroom dresser drawer, police found two boxes of bullets. Although police heard some of those present refer to Jamal Walker as “Mel,” they arrested Jamal for illegal possession of a weapon by a felon.

He was prosecuted under the name Pierre Walker. He did have a brother named Pierre who in fact had used Jamal’s name in the past when arrested. But Pierre had been paralyzed by a gunshot wound in 2008 and at the time of the raid was living in the California Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 2829 South California Boulevard in Chicago.

In April 2016, Jamal went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court. He chose to have the case decided by Judge Arthur Hill Jr. instead of a jury. Diblich and Ohle testified that when they entered the three-bedroom apartment, they found Walker sleeping on a “makeshift” bed in the dining room area. There were five other people in the apartment, though Diblich said he could not recall where they were in the apartment when the officers got inside.

Diblich testified that during the search of the second bedroom, which did not have a bed, another officer found two boxes of ammunition in the top drawer of a dresser. Diblich said he photographed the ammunition and placed it into an evidence bag. He then brought Walker into the room and showed him the ammunition. Diblich said he read Walker his rights and that Walker then admitted the bullets were his.

Ohle testified that at the police station, Walker said, “I can’t wait to find your kids. If you think…that all I got is the bullets.”

On cross-examination, Diblich admitted that he did not find anything linking Walker to the room where the bullets were found. Dana Johnson, Walker’s girlfriend of 13 years, testified that in 2015, she lived with Walker at two different addresses. Between January and August 2015, they lived in Carol Stream and after that in Melrose Park—both western suburbs of Chicago.

Johnson produced a check stub and a traffic ticket that had been mailed to Walker in Carol Stream, as well as a W-2 sent to Walker in Melrose Park.

Johnson testified that members of Walker’s family lived at the Jackson Boulevard address where the search was executed. She said there were times when Walker did sleep at the Jackson Boulevard apartment, but that in October 2015, they spent the majority of nights in their Melrose Park residence. She conceded that he spent at least eight nights at the Jackson Boulevard address. She testified that if he visited his family and got “drunk or something,” he would stay overnight.

Keith Terrell, who lived at the Jackson Boulevard address with three other people, also testified for the defense. Terrell, who was not related to Walker, said that Walker did not live there nor did he keep any possessions there. Terrell said Walker stayed the night of October 28, 2015, because he was drunk. Terrell also testified that the bedroom where the bullets were found was Antoine Walker’s—who was one of Jamal’s brothers.

Terrell testified that Antoine Walker was in that bedroom with another woman who lived in the apartment when the police entered to execute the warrant. He said the police then ordered everyone into the front room while they searched the apartment.

On April 11, 2016, Judge Hill convicted Walker, who had a prior felony conviction for drug possession, of illegal possession of a weapon by a felon. Hill sentenced Walker to eight years and six months in prison.

In September 2019, Walker was released on parole. On December 6, 2019, the First District Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction and ordered the case dismissed. The court ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction, despite the police claim that Walker admitted the bullets were his. “We find that, even viewed in the light most favorable to the State, there was insufficient corroborating evidence to show that the defendant constructively possessed the ammunition,” the appellate court said. “The only connection that the defendant had to the bullets was that he was sleeping in the apartment where they were found. But this alone was show the defendant had knowledge or immediate and exclusive control over the ammunition under the unique circumstances of this case. First, the defendant was in a different room from where the bullets were located: he was sleeping on a makeshift bed in the dining room, while the bullets were in an adjacent bedroom. Second, the bullets themselves were inside a dresser drawer in the bedroom and not in plain view. Third, two other individuals were in the room where the bullets were found when the police entered. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, there was nothing linking the defendant to the residence, such as bills, clothing, or personal belongings.”

The prosecution filed a petition for a rehearing of the case, but the petition was denied on March 20, 2020.

Walker’s attorney was Jarrett Adams, who himself was wrongly convicted, exonerated and subsequently obtained a law degree. In September 2020, Adams filed a petition seeking a certificate of innocence for Walker. The petition was accompanied by an affidavit from Pierre Walker, who said that he had been living in the rehabilitation center since being paralyzed by a gunshot in 2008.

Pierre said, “I have often used the name of my brother, Jamal, because Jamal was likely to never have any warrants for his arrest like I would.” He said he began using Jamal’s name in 2004 and only stopped using it when he was paralyzed. In addition, he said, “Jamal and I look nothing alike; he has a lighter complexion and is visibly taller than I am, and I have a visibly darker complexion than Jamal.”

On October 26, 2020, Cook County Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy Martin granted the certificate of innocence. In 2021, Walker was awarded $80,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois.

In May 2021, Adams filed a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department and officers Diblich and Ohle seeking damages for Walker’s wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/27/2021
Last Updated: 10/12/2021
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Sentence:8 years and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:31
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No