Wiping away tears, man who says he was Burge torture victim gets innocence certificate

Keith Walker’s murder conviction in the 1991 fatal shooting of an Arlington Heights teenager was vacated in August 2020.

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Keith Walker last August outside the Dirksen federal courthouse after he filed a lawsuit asserting that he was wrongfully convicted of a 1991 murder.

Keith Walker last August outside the Dirksen federal courthouse after he filed a lawsuit asserting that he was wrongfully convicted of a 1991 murder.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

When a Cook County judge signed a certificate Friday declaring Keith Walker innocent of a 1991 murder, he couldn’t keep his composure.

Walker, who appeared via Zoom video in Judge Erica Reddick’s courtroom, began wiping his eyes. He started sniffling and crying. The judge asked him to turn off his microphone.

“I understand the emotion,” the judge said.

After the hearing, the 52-year-old Walker told her, “I just want to say thank you for granting me my innocence certificate today.”

The judge’s ruling will allow Walker to seek nearly $200,000 in compensation from the state for what the courts have decided was a wrongful conviction.

Judges don’t grant certificates of innocence to every person whose murder case is overturned in Illinois.

In August 2020, Walker was freed from prison after his sentence of life without parole for murder was vacated. Last August, he filed a wrongful-conviction lawsuit, which remains pending.

Walker was convicted in the fatal shooting of Shawn Wicks, 18, of Arlington Heights. The Chicago Police Department said Wicks was killed in an attempted robbery while trying to buy marijuana on the South Side.

On Friday, Reddick said Walker’s lawyers presented credible evidence that detectives working under the late Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge tortured him into confessing. She said the witnesses who testified against him — including Wick, who gave a deathbed identification of Walker as the shooter — weren’t reliable. And she noted that the police didn’t present any physical evidence against Walker.

The Illinois attorney general’s office, which was appointed special prosecutor in Walker’s post-conviction appeal, didn’t oppose his certificate of innocence.

Also Friday, Reddick denied Jovanie Long’s request to pursue a post-conviction appeal of his murder conviction. Long is serving a 45-year prison sentence.

Long, 42, and Xavier Walker, 41, were convicted in a fatal shooting in 2000.

Jovanie Long, whose request to pursue a post-conviction appeal of his murder conviction was rejected Friday.

Jovanie Long, whose request to pursue a post-conviction appeal of his murder conviction was rejected Friday.

Illinois Department of Corrections

Sentenced to 35 years in prison, Walker had his conviction overturned in 2019 and was freed. He said his confession was the result of torture by police.

Jarrett Adams, Long’s lawyer, argued that Long should have his conviction vacated, too, because both men were found guilty of the same crime. But Reddick said there were differences in the cases, among them that Long didn’t accuse the police of torture after he turned himself in for questioning.

Reddick also said Long, who previously filed an unsuccessful post-conviction petition, didn’t make any new arguments in his latest one.

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