From a local CBS news affiliate, two Florida inmates serving life in prison for murder, walked out of prison thanks to a clever forgery…
34-year-old killers Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker both walked out of prison within two weeks of each other despite being sentenced to life in prison without parole. The reason? Each convict had a forged motion and order correcting an illegal sentence!
Forged paperwork with the “signature” of Judge Belvin Perry was sent to the Department of Corrections ordering the men to be freed. The paperwork was sent through Orange County (Orlando area) and failed to raise any eyebrows. It is probable that Judge Perry’s signature was forged due to his involvement in the recent Casy Anthony trial. His signature was plastered on dozens of court orders, many of them available on the web.
When asked for comment, Leesa Bainbridge, the Orange County Clerk of Court spokesperson sounded pessimistic about catching the perpetrator. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to determine where these pieces of paper came from. “We have thousands of pieces of paper coming through this office,” Bainbridge told Crimesider. “There’s no way to backtrack and say whether this was mailed in, faxed, or left in a dropbox.”
Additionally, the Florida Department of Corrections is denying wrongdoing. A spokesperson stated that all procedures were followed. After receiving the order, they called and confirmed the same with the clerk, prepared the paperwork and ran a warrant check on the two men.
The killers wrongful release was actually discovered by accident. Per standard procedure, the DOC gave notice of the release to the victim’s next of kin. The shocked victims called the state attorney’s office and after investigation, they determined that the releases were a mistake.
Joseph Ivan Jenkins was released on September 27 despite serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction of a father in 1998. A few days later, Christopher Walker was released from prison despite his life sentence for a 1999 murder. Both men were at the Franklin Correctional Institution but otherwise did not seem to have a connection.
The forged paperwork releasing the two men however, appeared to be remarkably similar. The same motion to correct an illegal sentence with a forged signature from the State Attorney, Jeff Ashton. The same order granting the motion (with the forged signature of the judge) and several pages of legal language was enough to fool the clerk’s office.
The documents in question were motions to correct a so-called “illegal sentence” that was supposedly written and filed by a prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office. This in itself should have raised some red flags as this type of motion is almost always written by the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer, not the prosecutor.
Walker’s Oct. 7 motion argued that he should never have been sentenced to life imprisonment because he was only found guilty of third degree murder, not second degree.
The motion asks for a reduced 15-year sentence, and another forged document granted it.
Likewise, Jenkins’ Aug. 30 motion also claims that his sentence was excessive because the charges were wrong. The forged order granting a reduction from life to a 15-year amended sentence was filed the same day.A local Pinellas criminal defense attorney believes that the forgeries were so well done that they could only be written by someone who has legal experience.
As of this writing, police are concentrating on finding and recapturing the two men. However, an investigation has also been opened into finding the people/person responsible for the false documents. There are a few leads such as a twitter account that was opened titled “FREE CHARLES WALKER”.
The really embarassing part was that this was the second time that a false document was used in an attempt to get the convicts released. Police investigation revealed that in 2011 another document showed up ordering a reduced sentence. A few months later, similar documents granting Walker the same early release. For an unknown reason, the prison did not release the two men despite the papers being sent to the DOC. Officials are at a loss to determine why these earlier forged documents were not noted in either of the two men’s files.