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People v. Walker

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

June 17, 2015

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES WALKER, Defendant-Appellant

Page 155

As Corrected.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 85 C 6845 (02). The Honorable James B. Linn, Judge, presiding.

FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE: Alan J. Spellberg, Mary P. Needham, Christine Cook, Office of the State's Attorney, County of Cook, Chicago, IL.

FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT: Alan D. Goldberg, Deborah Nall, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Chicago, IL.

JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Lavin concurred in the judgment and opinion. Presiding Justice Pucinski dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

HYMAN, JUSTICE.

Page 156

[¶1] Almost 30 years ago, James Walker was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of three people. Walker claimed he was in Momence, Illinois, at the time of the shooting, but three eyewitnesses identified him as the shooter. On direct appeal, the appellate court affirmed Walker's conviction. People v. Walker, No. 1-86-856 (1988) (unpublished order under Supreme Rule 23). Walker filed two postconviction petitions, which were summarily dismissed by the circuit court and affirmed by the appellate court. People v. Walker, No. 1-02-0959 (2003) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23); People v. Walker, No. 1-03-0333 (2004) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). On December 4, 2012, Walker filed a third pro se petition for postconviction relief asserting actual innocence and reasonable doubt. The circuit court of Cook County denied the petition as without merit. We affirm, finding Walker's petition for postconviction relief presents neither newly discovered, noncumulative exculpatory evidence nor material evidence of a conclusive character that would likely change the outcome on retrial.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On April 30, 1985, Glendon McKinley, Vickie Nolden, and Ricco Chalmers were fatally shot while standing on the corner of 54th Street and Halsted Avenue in Chicago. At trial, the State presented the testimony of three eyewitnesses who said they saw Walker get out of the passenger seat of a white car and open fire on the victims. One eyewitness, Andre Chalmers, the brother of one of the victims, identified Walker as the shooter and testified that he had known Walker for years. Another eyewitness, Tyrone Wheatley, testified that he saw Walker for the first time when he stepped out of the front passenger seat and shoot, describing him as a man with braided hair, a light mustache, and a goatee. The final eyewitness, Charles Poree, testified that he was inside a nearby tavern when he saw a white Pontiac pull up and the person in the front passenger seat shoot Ricco Chalmers. He identified Walker as the shooter, describing him as having braids, a light mustache, a little beard, and small hat. He also testified that Andre Chalmers never mentioned that he knew the man who shot his brother. On cross-examination, Poree was asked whether he heard Andre Chalmers say " Strickland did it." Although Andre Chalmers denied he ever made the statement, Poree stated that he thought he heard Andre say it.

[¶4] Walker presented an alibi defense through the testimony of family members and friends. That testimony placed Walker at his mother's home in Momence for his wedding rehearsal. Nonetheless, Walker was found guilty and sentenced to natural life in prison without parole. This court affirmed that judgment ( People v. Walker, No. 1-86-856 (1988) (unpublished order under Supreme Rule 23)) and later affirmed the circuit court's

Page 157

dismissal of two pro se petitions for relief ( People v. Walker, No. 1-02-0959 (2003) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)); People v. Walker, No. 1-03-0333 (2004) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)).

[¶5] On December 4, 2012, Walker filed the petition before us. He asserts actual innocence and reasonable doubt, and attaches three supporting statements: (i) a sworn affidavit from Walker reiterating that at the time of the homicides he was attending his wedding rehearsal with his family; (ii) a sworn affidavit from Eugene Horton, a fellow inmate and a prison law clerk, who worked on Walker's case and claims to have interviewed several eyewitnesses, including Andre Chalmers and Charles Poree; and (iii) a statement from Tyrone Powell, a fellow inmate who claims he witnessed the shooting. Horton states that Chalmers and Poree told him that the shooter was a man named Strickland. Horton also claims that Poree and an inmate named Vincent Carter, another alleged eyewitness, told him that Strickland threatened to kill them if they identified him as the shooter and for this reason, Horton asserts, they would not speak about the murders until Horton told them that Strickland died.

[¶6] The crux of Walker's actual innocence claim rests on the unnotarized statement of Tyrone Powell. Powell asserts that as he stood in a McDonald's parking lot eating, he saw a white car make a sudden stop in front of a tavern on the corner of 54th and Halsted. He then saw a " tall black man" get out of the passenger seat, shoot a handgun, get back in the car, and speed away. He further states that he knew Walker in 1985 and knew that the shooter was someone other than Walker. Powell said he did not know that Walker had been convicted for the crime until Eugene Horton recently asked him about it.

[¶7] After reviewing Walker's petition and supporting documents, the circuit court rejected the petition as devoid of merit. Addressing Tyrone Powell's ...


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