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SAN JOSE — Quedillis Ricardo Walker was freed from prison Monday after serving 12 years for a murder that the Santa Clara County district attorney now acknowledges Walker didn’t commit. Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy ordered Walker released after both Walker’s attorney, Alison Tucher, and the Santa Clara DA’s office — which won a first-degree murder conviction against Walker in 1991 — agreed that new evidence would prove Walker was factually innocent. “Our investigation causes me to believe Walker was framed by acquaintances for a 1991 murder he did not commit,” DA George Kennedy wrote in a statement. Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu, who met with Tucher and agreed to reinvestigate Walker’s conviction, said the office now has scientific evidence linking another suspect to the crime. “It wouldn’t be right to [plan to] charge somebody else and hold Walker another day,” Sinunu said. “We had an ethical obligation to cause his release.” Tucher, a Morrison & Foerster business litigator who took the case pro bono, said her client was the victim of police and prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective defense counsel and a dirty deal that let the real killer plead to second-degree murder in exchange for implicating Walker. “There was no evidence that tied Walker to the crime other than the testimony of [the other defendant] Rahsson Bowers,” Tucher told reporters outside the Hall of Justice on Monday. “This case is about a defense attorney who acted like a potted plant,” Tucher later added, saying that Walker’s first defense attorney, James Mantell, didn’t investigate the case before going to trial. Mantell, who is no longer practicing, said he would have no comment on the case. Tucher — a former deputy DA in Santa Clara — first heard of Walker’s conviction while she was in law school. Her mother was a friend of Walker’s mother. Tucher didn’t take Walker’s case until 1999, after his federal and state appeals had failed. Tucher interviewed witnesses, including several prison inmates. She says she now has a list of five people whose testimony will exonerate Walker. Tucher took her evidence in February to Assistant DA Sinunu, who assigned DA investigators to re-examine the case. “The district attorney was responsive. � It was a great tribute to the Santa Clara district attorney’s office that they were willing to look at the evidence,” Tucher said. “The district attorney was reckless when the case was first charged.” Kennedy was district attorney in 1991. Walker was convicted in November 1991 of killing former girlfriend Lisa Hopewell. In January 1991, Hopewell was found in her Cupertino condo with her throat slit. She had been hog-tied and her head duct-taped. Police found fingerprints on the duct tape and matched them with suspect Rahsson Bowers. Bowers confessed to the crime and later implicated Walker after sheriff’s deputies suggested that Walker might have been involved. Bowers and Walker stood trial in November 1991. Bowers cut a deal with prosecutors, pleading to second-degree murder and accepting a 15-years-to-life sentence in exchange for his testimony against Walker. Walker had an alibi witness, a married woman who had spent the day of the murder with him at a hotel. The woman testified in Walker’s defense, but didn’t convince the jury. He was sentenced to 26 years to life. Tucher alleged misconduct, saying Bower’s attorney, Deputy PD Randy Danto, and Deputy DA John Schon, struck the plea deal before the trial started, but waited to divulge the deal until the middle of trial. Tucher said Schon wanted the “Perry Mason” effect, “so Rahsson Bowers could move from the defendant’s table to the witness stand.” “Walker’s attorney had a right to know the evidence against his client,” Tucher said. “What was misconduct was the deal was worked out beforehand.” Schon is still with the DA’s office, and Danto remains with the PD’s office. Danto did not return calls seeking comment. Schon, however, strongly denied any misconduct. “If Alison [Tucher] says there’s misconduct, that’s not true. She can believe whatever she wants to believe,” Schon said. “I do congratulate her on her perseverance for getting what appears to be an innocent man out of custody.” Sinunu said she could not comment on any misconduct allegations. “My focus is on Rahsson Bowers, who put an acquaintance of his in prison to save his own neck,” Sinunu said. “What was reached when, I have not asked the trial deputy.” Tucher said she’ll file a petition for writ of habeas corpus with Judge Murphy by Wednesday. Declarations gathered by DA investigators could be used as exhibits, Sinunu said.

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