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Life sentence in 1984 murder is under review

Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 4:31 p.m. CDT
James E. Walker

JOLIET – A man could receive another day in court after serving 30 years of a life sentence.

Judge Robert Livas agreed Tuesday to hear a post-conviction argument next week that James E. Walker's punishment for a 1984 murder is unconstitutional.

Walker, 48, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a crime that occurred a month before he turned 18. In 2012, the Supreme Court decided in "Miller vs. Alabama" that a mandatory life sentence for a juvenile was unconstitutional.

Defense attorney Shobha Mahadev plans to show Walker's case falls under the same guidelines, while Assistant Will County State's Attorney Colleen Griffin will argue Walker's original sentence was "discretionary, not mandatory" so the Supreme Court ruling does not apply.

On March 16, 1984, Walker, who was 17 at the time, and Xavier D. Williams, then 16, called for a taxi to rob the driver. According to court records, they had Charles Davis, 29, stop in the 1200 block of Clark Street where Williams got out and Walker shot the Crest Hill man with a sawed-off shotgun he had hidden under his coat. Walker later told police he killed Davis so he could not be identified.

Williams was sentenced to 35 years in prison but was released prior to October 2011, according to court records. Walker remains in the Pontiac Correctional Center.

If Livas agrees with the defense's argument, Walker would receive a new sentencing hearing, not a new trial.

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