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Ex-con wants name cleared in '76 killing

A Buffalo man who claims he was wrongly convicted in a 1976 beating death held another rally Monday outside the district attorney's office, but he and his lawyer now are looking for the public's help in getting the verdict set aside.

John H. Walker Jr. has been leading the effort to have authorities reopen the case in which he and two other teens were convicted of killing a middle-age Fillmore Avenue man in 1976. Walker served more than 20 years in prison and a work-release program, and he wants his name cleared.

As proof of his innocence, Walker has cited crime-scene photos and comments from a current judge who was involved in the case as a defense attorney almost 30 years ago.

In August, about 125 people rallied, carrying signs asking Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to help reopen the case.

Monday, before the second such rally outside Clark's Delaware Avenue office, the district attorney said Walker and his supporters are targeting the wrong person. "I have no role in it anymore," Clark said. "Here's a case where the appellate process is over, and the person has served his time. There's nothing for me to do."

Instead, Clark said, the person in question could bring a motion in State Supreme Court, or even in federal court, to have the verdict set aside.

That's just what Walker intends to do, with the help of attorney Kedra L. Small.

"We're trying to get the community more involved," she said. "This is going to be an expensive proposition for [Walker]."

The case jumped backed into the headlines in March, when City Judge James A.W. McLeod told The Buffalo News he is convinced all four men were innocent. McLeod represented the only defendant acquitted among the four.

"We want the community to understand that a grave injustice has been done, and it could happen to anybody's son or daughter," she said. "This is an African-American man, but this is not an African-American issue."

Walker said anyone wanting to make a donation could send it to John Walker, c/o Indictment 41-413, Bank of America, 1171 E. Delavan Ave., Buffalo, NY 14215.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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