Charles Bernard Walker and Joseph Ivan Jenkins, both serving life sentences for murder, were released by authorities at Franklin Correctional Institution in Florida after receiving forged documents that seemed to pass through all required channels. The authorities discovered the problem with the papers, Tuesday, and as of writing, the manhunt for the said fugitives are still ongoing.
Jenkins went behind bars in 1998 and was convicted to suffer a life sentence for armed robbery and first-degree murder of a man in Orlando. He walked out of the penitentiary facility on Sept 27. Walker was sentenced to suffer the same punishment in 1999 for the murder of a 23-year-old man in Orange County. He was freed on October 8.
The bogus documents appeared to have the signature of Chief Judge Belvin Perry, State Attorney Jeff Ashton's, and signatures of other members of the State Attorney's Office. The release orders were carefully prepared to look legitimate and even included letterheads, the county seal, and had used a usual format prescribed for such filings.
"I strongly believe they had some help. It is unlikely [the documents] were produced by the inmates," said Perry when interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel.
The paperwork pertains to separate motions that appeal the illegal sentences received by Jenkins and Walker. The documents argue that the prisoners should only have a 15-year sentence. Another set of forged documents granted the appeals. Jenkin's motion was received on August 30 while Walker's motion was filed on October 7.
"It is now clear that the use of forged court documents to obtain release from prison is an ongoing threat which all law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, court clerks and prison officials must address and stop," Ashton said.
According to reports, prison officials went through the usual process of verification and counter checks prior to release both men. They verified the information with the county clerk's office, searched the database for possible outstanding warrants, and prepared the necessary paperwork.
"They committed violent crimes. The best thing for them to do is to turn themselves in," said Capt. Angelo Nieves of the Orange County Sheriff's Office in an interview with CNN.
Authorities in Florida are investigating what led to the wrongful release of the two inmates. They are also conducting reviews of other release orders to check if there are other falsified documents received by the courts.