February 28, 2007
ATLANTA, Ga.---It was another day in court for the Charles Walker camp. Today, his family and his attorneys were in an Atlanta courtroom arguing his appeal. Three judges from the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the arguments.
News 12's Jonathan Martin was the only local reporter in the courtroom this morning.
Since Charles Walker's conviction, his attorneys and family have said his trial--specifically the jury makeup--and the sentencing were unfair.
After waiting for over a year, they were able to tell it all to the court in Atlanta.
Leaving the US courthouse in Atlanta, the family of Charles Walker had little to say.
"God is good," Charles "Champ" Walker, Jr. said.
But perhaps the smiles on the faces of Walker's legal team signified their satisfaction with their argument before the court.
"This is a day, not premature, but a day of vindications," said attorney Kenneth Walker. "In many ways the courts argued the same parts we argued. Initially this was a political witch-hunt."
Attorney Don Samuel told the three appellate judges his client did not receive a fair trial, citing the makeup of the jury. Walker's legal counsel says Judge Dudley Bowen violated what's called Batson Rules by placing four white males on the jury after Walker's attorneys had chosen to strike them. Samuels says not only their race, but their occupations put Walker at a disadvantage.
"Regardless of race, regardless of race, we ended up with an accountant, a city official, and people we simply didn't want on a jury, and we have the right to exercise strikes for any reason," Samuel said.
They also argued the former senator unfairly got an increased sentence because he was believed to have criminal participants, including his daughter Monique. Samuels says that was never proven.
"You can't be a ringleader if there's no ring," he said. "You can't be a chief if there's no Indians."
But prosecutors beg to differ.
"The position is there were other criminal participants in the event," said US attorney Edmund Booth. "The fact that the court didn't want to label these people as criminal participants, who were not otherwise formally charged in this case, does not remove the fact that there were other participants."
This opportunity is one the Walker family and supporters have been waiting on for nearly a year. Now the three judges will decide if this appeal was strong enough to free Charles Walker and grant him another trial.
"I'm hoping he can go home and be with his family," said supporter Wayne Frazier.
Walker's attorneys also believe his sentence was unfair because they say the counts concerning his dealings with MCG and Grady Hospital while acting as a lawmaker should have been state ethics violations and not federal indictments.
In June of 2005, Walker was convicted of 127 counts, including mail fraud, conspiracy, and filing a false charitable tax return.
On November 29, 2005, Judge Dudley Bowen sentenced Walker to the 10 years and one month sentence.
In December 2005, he reported to the minimum security federal correction satellite prison in Estill, South Carolina.
Prior to his conviction, Charles Walker spent 22 years in the Georgia Legislature.
Walker was first elected to the State Senate in 1990.
Charles Walker is now serving a 121 month prison sentence.