The Sad Story Of An Innocent Man Jailed Over 2 Years Because Of LAPD Lies
The story of a man who was kept in jail 27 months—while LAPD detectives concealed evidence that would have exonerated him—is making news a decade after the man's arrest and years after he died.The late Michael Walker was arrested in 2005 because a store clerk thought he bore a resemblance to another middle-aged black man who had robbed the store just a few days earlier, according to the Los Angeles Times. Police arrested him after he cooperated with questioning and searches. They arrested him, though there wasn't any other evidence tying Walker to the robbery. However, the robbery he was accused of seemed to be connected to a string of similar robberies in the area at the time, involving a suspect who left handwritten notes rife with misspellings. Police kept Walker jailed while they investigated and tried to tie him to the other robberies.
The detectives investigating the case—Steven Moody and Robert Pulido—told prosecutors, "Since the arrest of Walker, the crime spree caused by the 'Demand Note Robber' has ceased." That wasn't true and the detectives later testified that they knew it. Only two days after Walker's arrest a robber who couldn't spell "start" hit up the Golden Bird restaurant and a Burger King. They lied to justify keeping Walker jailed on $1 million bail.
Attorneys eventually discovered that Walker's fingerprints weren't found at the scene, so they asked for more information. LAPD stonewalled prosecutors until a judge asked them to turn over more evidence. That's when prosecutors found out that a robber who had recently been arrested while fleeing the scene had fingerprints that matched up to those found at the scene of Walker's alleged crime. Prosecutors immediately dropped the charges against him—27 months after Walker had been jailed.
Walker sued the LAPD and the detectives who handled his case, arguing that they violated his constitutional rights by not giving him due process. A jury who agreed and awarded him $106,000 in compensation—it was a low figure because there were no punitive damages, and Walker was poor so he couldn't prove that he suffered any economic losses from being jailed. Los Angeles has fought to appeal the measly sum, and that seems to be the main reason that we've heard much about this case, which has received little media coverage.
The latest news is that the appeal went all the way up to the Supreme Court. Los Angeles tried to argue that because Walker was let out before the case went to trial. That argument did not fly at the Supreme Court this week, and the LA Times wrote, "The outcome puts police on notice that they may be sued if they have deliberately hidden information that clearly reveals a suspect is being wrongly held."
But this news came far too late for Walker. His lawyer John C. Burton told the Times that Walker's health deteriorated after he was released from jail. He died in 2011 of alcohol-related problems.