Agreement Reached with Walker in Dorm Case
By Candice Freeland
MURRAY, KY - A diversion agreement has been reached with Jerry Walker Jr. in regards to a series of letters that were written following a deadly dormitory fire at Murray State University in 1998.
The agreement annouced in Calloway Circuit Court Tuesday morning. Pursuant to the agreement, Walker pleaded guilty to writing the letters. Additionally, he must perform community service, and issue a letter of apology, which he did in court Tuesday.
In the apology, Walker said that writing letters about the fire was an act of immaturity.
Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship prosecuted Walker. He says the hours of community service will be performed as upkeep of the Michael Minger Memorial located on the Murray State University campus. The amount of time to be devoted to the upkeep has not been determined.
If Walker abides by the agreement, the charges will not be reflected in his record following the diversion period, which is five years.
In terms of his employment with Paducah City Schools, Walker's attorney Richard Null says he has no indication at this point that Walker will lose his job, adding that the situation will likely come under review by the Kentucky State Licensing Board.
Walker has been tried twice for starting the fire in Hester Hall in late September, 1998. The first trial ended with a hung jury in 2001. The second trial ended earlier this summer, when a not-guilty verdict was issued in July.
Mark Blankenship acknowledges that he has been percieved as "in revenge mode or something like that" in his prosecution of Jerry Walker Jr., and that he was "just out to get him," but Blankenship says that's just not true.
"Even on the original case, we offered outright probation. We just wanted to close this case, so the families, the victims, everybody could just have closure. So, we didn't get that. He wanted to go on with the trial. I congratulate him for the result he got there...You know the system is made up of humans. I don't think we always get it right. I think there are many times when innocent people are convicted, and I think there are times when guilty people are acquitted. And it just happens. And that's what I'll always think happened in this case."
When asked if he dislikes Jerry Walker Jr., Blankenship said no.
"I don't dislike him. Not at all. I love him, as my faith teaches me, you know, to love my neighbor...You hate what they do, the act, what he did here. In my view, that's where I would have disfavor..."
Blankenship's original probation offer included that Walker return to Murray every September 18 (the night of the fire) for the rest of his life.
Blankenship said there's a lesson he's learned during this trial: It's very difficult to prosecute a cold case when it involves an individual who's made positive contributions to society, saying, "You probably should just leave him alone."