Walker appears in court again after acquittal in July

Jerry Wayne Walker Jr., right, appears in court again on Sept. 7, after being acquitted during a retrial earlier in the year. || Bryan Barron/The News

Jerry Wayne Walker Jr., right, appears in court again on Sept. 7, after being acquitted during a retrial earlier in the year. || Bryan Barron/The News

Jerry Wayne Walker Jr. first appeared in court more than 10 years ago for charges relating to a September 1998 fire at Hester College. Last year, the Paducah man charged with setting the fire and killing one student all those years ago faced nearly a year of court deliberations in a re-trial in which he was acquitted.

And again on Sept. 7, Walker appeared in Calloway County Circuit Court for six counts of tampering with evidence.

Calloway County Circuit Judge Dennis Foust said the court is seeking justice in one of Murray’s most unrelenting cases, as more than a dozen individuals have stood suspect. He said he will have a ruling on proceeding to trial by Sept. 28.

Walker was acquitted for the second time in July in connection with the ‘98 fire.

The charges relate to letters used as evidence at the trial in Benton, Ky. The letters are allegedly written by Walker and imply other people were involved with the fire.

Retired County Circuit Judge John Daughaday was meant to argue for the defense, but due to health issues Richard Null, Walker’s past defense attorney, took his place.

“What the Commonwealth is doing is charging him with something he didn’t do,” Null said. “It undermines what the court does when they don’t agree with the verdict. Everyone knows he was acquitted, everyone knows he is being tried again today.”

Null said the Commonwealth does not believe the jury’s verdict in July’s two-week trial, which resulted in a full acquittal of all charges against Walker.

Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blakenship, said there is nothing personal between him and Walker.

He said the defense attorney did not want to try the tampering charges in August because it would have rained on the acquittal.

Blakenship brought the tampering charges before a grand jury prior to the trial in August and asked they be added to the case.

“I think we are more damaged in the court when we don’t prosecute people who are guilty,” Blakenship said. “No one was trying to trap him into a tampering charge. I keep hearing, Walker has lived a good life, leave him alone, but that is not the law.”

He said he has heard it’s a poor investigation, but he has not heard that Walker is innocent.

“I am not ashamed of any offers I’ve made in this case,” Blakenship said. “Double jeopardy would protect him if he apologized for doing it. I’m not asking you to lie, I’m offering outright dismissal with prejudice.”

He said he thinks this is Murray’s most historically important case.

Null said asking a person to say something they didn’t do is punishment.

Said Null: “This is not about closure of Mrs. Minger (the mother of Michael Minger, who died in the 1998 Hester fire) anymore, this is about closing the case.”

Jerry Wayne Walker Jr., appeared in Calloway County Circuit Court for a hearing on Friday afternoon for six counts of tampering with evidence.

Circuit Court Judge Dennis Foust said the court is only seeking justice. Foust said he will have a ruling on whether or not to proceed to trial by Sept. 28.

Walker was acquitted in July for connection with a 1998 Hester Hall fire that killed one student and injured another.

The charges relate to letters used as evidence at the trial in Benton, Ky.

Richard Null acted as Walker’s defense attorney.
“What the commonwealth is doing is charging him with something he didn’t do,” Null said. “It undermines what the court does when they don’t agree with the verdict. Everyone knows he was acquitted, everyone knows he is being tried again today.”
Null said the only proper thing to do is dismiss this case.

Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blakenship, said there is nothing personal between him and Jerry Walker.

Blakenship said the defense attorney did not want to try the tampering charges in August, because it would have rained on the acquittal.

He said he has heard it has been a poor investigation, but he has not heard that Walker is innocent for tampering.

“I think we are more damaged in the court when we don’t prosecute people who are guilty,” Blakenship. “No one was trying to trap him into a tampering charge. I keep hearing, Walker has lived a good life, leave him alone, but that is not the law.”

He said he is not ashamed of any of the offers he has made in this case.

“Double jeopardy would protect him if he apologized for doing it,” Blakenship said. “I’m not asking you to lie, I’m offering outright dismissal with prejudice.”

He said he thinks this is the most important case which has come through Murray in his life.
Null said asking another person to admit to something they didn’t do, is punishment.

“A public apology is admitting to something he didn’t do,” Null said. “This is not about the closure of Mrs. Minger anymore, this is about closing the case.”

Story by Meghann Anderson, Assistant News Editor.