25 years later: Harlem native Jabar Walker exonerated after new evidence uncovered by Innocence Project, Manhattan DA
Jabar Walker, surrounded by family, celebrated his long-awaited freedom: "It feels good to be free with them right here with me," said Walker.
The joyous celebrations extended both inside and outside the courthouse after a Manhattan Judge ordered Walker's release, marking the end of a quarter-century-long legal battle.
Convicted in 1998 for a double murder, Walker's case underwent a joint reinvestigation by the Innocence Project and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. This collaborative effort exposed crucial revelations as key witnesses, John Mobley, and Carlos Jimnenez, recanted their testimonies, casting doubt on Walker's guilt. Additionally, the Manhattan DA's office disclosed credibility issues surrounding the sole eyewitness, Vanessa Vigo.
“We talked to over 30 witnesses so we can finally get to the truth and all of the evidence supported what he had been saying from day 1,” said Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project.
"There's a big problem among police, prosecutors, and the system where nobody cares about the truth. And once you're convicted, people just fight to uphold the conviction," Potkin added.
Advocates say there are 12 other cases similar to Walker’s but the legal nonprofit group doesn’t have the capacity to assist with all of them. They get over 3,000 cases and are only able to take on 1%. Increased funding is seen as a crucial factor in assisting more individuals wrongfully convicted.
"We believe that from the society and communities that are impacted by these cases, their budget should look like the police budget. If they had the budget, we'd see a lot more people free," said Jay Holder, director of the National Executive Council at the Columbia Center for Justice.
Standing steadfastly by Jabar Walker's side throughout the ordeal, his mother, Patrice Walker.
"A lot of tears, a lot of happy tears," said Patrice Walker. As her son steps into his newfound freedom, his mother has a simple request, "You said get a job, my mom said get a job, so get a job," said Walker.