The 53-year-old man reportedly spent more than 36 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape. Now S. Walter has been exonerated. According to the IPNO, he was exonerated after 36 years, 1 month, and 30 days incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. The now 53-year-old was arrested at the age of 17 but was prosecuted as an adult,” revealed the IPNO in a press release on Thursday. “This is the longest known wrongful incarceration of a juvenile in Louisiana history and the fifth longest in U.S. history,” continued its social media post.
The year was 1986 when Walter was charged in connection to a rape and home invasion case, per a motion to vacate his conviction. The rape victim in the case, identified only as “L.S.”, was showering when she noticed a man in her home. He was wearing a backwards baseball cap and covering his lower face with a washcloth. After being noticed , the culprit quickly placed a shirt over her face and walked her towards an “empty unlit bathroom” at knifepoint before raping her. While reporting the matter to the police she said the man dropped his face covering several times while committing the horrendous crime and thus she believed she could identify him.
Working with a police sketch artist, she gave descriptions to make a composite drawing. A month-and-a-half later, Walter was taken into custody for simple burglary and when police saw him they thought he looked like the man L.S. had described. His pictures were then presented to L.S. who later identified him as the rapist. In the pictures, he was wearing a blue baseball cap, the same color hat as the man who raped L.S. Walter was charged with rape and convicted by a jury but he continued making numerous appeals. Unfortunately from 1997 until October 2021 he did not have any legal assistance and after IPNO attorneys took up his case, they “discovered that though the serological testing in the 1980s concluded that Mr. Walter was not the perpetrator, the jury that convicted Mr. Walter did not know this,” noted the organization.
Walter’s “trial attorney did not elicit this evidence from witnesses and the police officer analyst misrepresented the results of his testing,” read the post. So IPNO’s recent findings were presented to the OPDA’s Office Civil Rights Division and together they moved to vacate the wrongful conviction.
“An expert report… describes problems with the testing in Mr. Walter’s case and ‘disingenuous at best’ police testimony. The report also observes ‘systematic deficiencies’ in serological testing performed by the NOPD and Coroner’s Office during the 1980s and early 1990s and suggests ‘a comprehensive review of every case in Orleans Parish in which ABO/secretor test findings and testimony may have figured in the conviction of a defendant,'” added IPNO in a post.
“Under no circumstances should the District Attorney’s agreement, in this case, be taken to infer that the victim was dishonest in her identification nor minimize her and her family’s very real trauma from her assault. Rather, it should be recognized that the tragedy of her assault is, in fact, magnified by the fact the true perpetrator was not apprehended and may have victimized others,” read the motion.
“Sullivan Walter was convicted by a prior administration of this office despite the fact the serology testing by state law enforcement at the time showed he could not have been the person who committed the rape he was convicted of in 1986. After Mr. Walter’s trial, a state official -in the face of a serology exclusion indicating the wrong man had been prosecuted -changed his prior sworn testimony to ensure the 17-year-old Mr. Walter remained behind bars,” OP District Attorney Jason Williams told CNN.
No such behavior would ever be tolerated in my administration and we could not stand by or defend a conviction obtained or maintained with such methods. Mr. Walter suffered a terrible injustice and, though this office rectified it promptly when it was brought to our attention, it is a tragedy that it took the legal system so long to do so. We are working every day to prevent such avoidable tragedies from happening again,” Williams noted.