On December 13, 2006, thirty-nine years after he was arrested for a 1967 Baltimore, MD robbery/murder of a grocery store proprietor, Walter Lomax emerged a free man. CM was able to present the full facts and circumstances to a concerned judge in a motion to reopen the post conviction case and suspend the life sentence to time served. The judge, citing evidence of actual innocence, was particularly impressed with the fact that on the day of the crime a doctor had dressed Walter’s recently injured right hand with a plaster of Paris cast which went from his fingers all the way to his elbow. This was significant because all the witnesses who had observed the shooter testified that there was nothing unusual about his right hand which wielded the gun that he had used to fatally shoot the store manager. Walter was the victim of faulty cross-racial identification, sloppy police work, and woefully ineffective trial counsel. Then in 2014 Walter was exonerated! He has now filed a civil suit seeking compensation for his 47 years of wrongful conviction.
Walter Lomax is the Founder and Executive Director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, which seeks to make changes within the Maryland parole system so that certain Lifers can be granted parole so that they can experience meaningful lives.
the full story…
In the early morning hours of December 2, 1967, a lone gunman robbed the Giles Food Market in Baltimore, MD and fatally shot the proprietor of this small grocery store. This crime was one of the many, mostly unsolved, robberies and shootings that occurred in a one month time period in Baltimore. Under tremendous pressure to clear these crimes, the police resorted to en-mass line ups at the main police station which they advertised in the newspaper. Showing up to view the line-ups were 75 witnesses to 58 crimes, including the Giles Food Market murder.
When Walter heard that there was a warrant out for him, he voluntarily went to the police station to see why the police wanted him. The warrant was actually for his brother, Michael, for non-payment of child support. As a result, Walter was mistakenly put into one of the numerous line ups. Tragically he was misidentified by three people who saw the Giles Food Market shooting.
The person who did the crime had shopped for about 20 minutes prior to the actual start of the crime. He finally went to the check out counter where he irritated the two clerks there by constantly returning to a grocery shelf to obtain one item after another. The two clerks had a clear and calm view of him for quite a while during his extended check out procedure. By the time he finished his shopping, he had two full bags of groceries.
It wasn’t until he left the store and deposited the grocery bags at an unknown place that he returned to the store and began the crime. He shot the manager dead and then robbed the same two clerks. These two clerks had, by far, the best opportunity to view the suspect; and significantly, neither of these two clerks, a 20 year old man and a 60 year old woman, identified Walter Lomax as the robber/shooter.
A Broken Right Hand
The coup de grace that established Mr. Lomax’s factual innocence was his physical condition on the date of the crime. On November 26th, eight days before the crime, 20 year old Walter had chaperoned his 15 and 16 year old sisters to a Thanksgiving evening dance at a YMCA in Baltimore. Protecting his sisters from unwanted advances, he was attacked by a gang of 10 to 12 teenaged thugs who came to the dance to make trouble.
During the attack, Walter was stabbed in the top of his right hand in such a forceful manner by one of the assailants that the knife went through the hand, partly severing muscles and fracturing a bone. He also suffered severe rib and chest injuries inflicted by the gang when they had him on the ground and repeatedly kicked and punched him. As a result of these painful injuries he could not walk upright.
Walter was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital to have his injuries treated. A plaster cast was applied from his palm and fingers all the way to his elbow. In the days following Walter experienced additional swelling in his right hand and returned to the hospital two more times for treatment. His second visit was on December 2, 1967 (the day of the crime). The doctor on this date described the splint applied to Walter’s arm upon leaving the clinic as being a plaster of Paris going from the fingertips to the elbow with 15 layers of gauze padding a half inch thick covering the hand and going from the palm to the elbow, rendering the hand immobile.
His painfully bruised ribs restricted his movement according to his friends and relatives who were never presented by his trial counsel. During his recovery period he lived with his older sister who nursed him. He was so disabled from the rib injury that he could hardly move during the first week of rehabilitation.
Nothing Wrong with the Shooter’s Right Hand
All the witnesses described the perpetrator as wielding and shooting the gun in his right hand without any sign of difficulty. Furthermore, none of the witnesses noticed anything unusual with the shooter’s right hand. Police had chased the criminal in full flight and saw him evade a police cruiser as well as an officer who fired shots at the fleeing suspect over several blocks.
Additionally, the perpetrator had purchased and carried in each hand two large shopping bag of groceries that he took outside before reentering the store and commencing the crime. Walter could not have done these things given his painful chest and rib injuries and his severely injured right hand that was in a plaster cast.
Unfortunately, Walter’s trial attorney did not present the hand injury in a way that the jury could envision. Trial counsel made no mention of the rib and chest injuries. Nor did he present evidence concerning the circumstances surrounding the stabbing of Walter’s hand. The judge even wondered aloud at trial as to how and why Walter’s hand had been stabbed. Not knowing the circumstances surrounding the hand injury, the jury could have easily attached criminal conduct on Walter’s part with his stabbing.
The investigation conducted by Centurion’s Jim McCloskey and retired police officer Stephen C. Delaney , allowed Walter’s Baltimore attorneys Booth Ripke and Larry Nathans to present the full facts and circumstances to a concerned judge in a motion to reopen the post conviction case and suspend the life sentence to time served. The court made reference to the “evidence of actual innocence” as well as Walter’s spotless 39 year prison record and concluded its decision by modifying the sentence to time served. With the prosecutor’s agreement to this ruling, Walter walked out of the same courtroom in which he had been convicted four decades earlier, but as a free man.