Man Sues, Alleging 27 Months' False Imprisonment

By Noah Barron
Daily Journal Staff Writer

      LOS ANGELES - A man who was charged with armed robbery is suing the city of Los Angeles, its Police Department, Chief William J. Bratton and three detectives for holding him in custody for 27 months and allegedly suppressing evidence he claims they knew would have exonerated him.
      Michael Walker's lawyers claim the only thing he was guilty of was walking into the wrong store at the wrong time. The suit alleges that the detectives "knew within the first week of his arrest" that Walker was innocent.
      The Los Angeles Police Department said it does not comment on litigation in progress.
      Deputy District Attorney Alison Myers, who handled a portion of Walker's prosecution for robbery, said her office also declined to comment.
      The case stems from Walker's arrest in 2005, when police were searching for a suspect in a spate of store robberies involving a middle-aged black perpetrator who used a threatening "demand note" to rob retail cashiers.
      The lawsuit alleges that authorities continued their investigation of Walker, 52, "despite the fact that they knew or should have known that he was innocent" and that detectives destroyed a closed-circuit video that showed a similar robbery taking place at a restaurant on Aug. 19, 2005, after Walker was taken into custody. Walker v. City of Los AngelesCV084707R (L.A. Super. Ct., filed July 18, 2008).
      "This detective comes along and says, 'The "Demand Note" robberies have stopped,' and they didn't, and he knew they didn't," said Walker's lawyer, John Burton of John Burton Law Offices in Pasadena.
      Walker also is represented by Maria Cavalluzzi of Cavalluzzi & Cavalluzzi in Los Angeles.
      "Detectives are supposed to turn over all the evidence, the good and the bad, and let the system work it out," Burton said. "Instead, certain detectives put their finger on the scale." 
      Walker claims police misrepresented evidence connecting him to an Aug. 13, 2005, robbery of video game store EB Games.
      According to the suit, Walker "innocently entered the same store as a customer," three days after the crime and was erroneously recognized by witnesses as the "Demand Note Robber," as police came to dub him.
      Eventually, Walker was charged by the district attorney with eight demand-note style robberies, including the EB Games caper. He had a prior conviction for armed robbery in the 1970s, his lawyers said.
      His lawyers said that when fingerprint analysis failed to discover a match between Walker's prints and those lifted from video game boxes found at EB Games, he should have been released. Instead, he was held in custody for two years.
      At the time of his arrest, Walker was employed on a sporadic basis as a painter and did not have the resources to post bail, his attorneys said.
      He was held at Los Angeles County Jail until Nov. 26, 2007, when a police department fingerprint expert confirmed that the EB Games fingerprints belonged to another robbery suspect and the charges were dropped, Walker's lawyers said.
      The lawyers claim that the district attorney and the police did not comply with repeated requests for evidence and comparisons with similar crimes.
      Burton, declined to say how much his team plans to ask for in damages, but he compared the case to that of Compton schoolteacher Raul Ramirez, who won a federal verdict of $18 million in compensatory damages in 2006, after being wrongly accused of rape in 2003.