Man Serving Life May Be Innocent

September 6, 1999

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A man who has served 19 years in prison for murder might win a new trial because two witnesses who identified him at his trial now say they picked the wrong man, the Orange County Register reported. 

The development is enough to warrant a new investigation in the case of imprisoned Dwayne McKinney, said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who prosecuted the case. 

``I'm not ready to say, `Oh, my gosh, we've got the wrong guy.' But we're going to take a hard look at it,'' Rackauckas said. ``Something like this isn't going to be taken lightly. We're not in the business of trying to keep innocent people in jail.'' 

Public Defender Carl Holmes said he will file a motion this week seeking a new trial. 

McKinney was convicted of killing 19-year-old Walter Horace Bell during a 1980 robbery attempt at a restaurant in Orange. 

McKinney, 39, has always insisted he is innocent, the newspaper reported Sunday. 

``I haven't done anything and I'm stuck in a box,'' McKinney said. 

He was arrested six days after the shooting when witnesses identified him through photos. Four witnesses identified him as the gunman at his trial. 

The Orange County Public Defender's Office learned last year that convicted robber and rapist Willie Charles Walker said he drove the getaway car for the robbery and that McKinney was not involved. 

In a prison interview, Walker said his partner, Raymond Herman Jackett III, committed the murder. 

And two trial witnesses - restaurant employees Brian March and Donald Bulla - recently viewed photographs of Jackett and now say McKinney wasn't the gunman. 

``If I had seen Jackett's picture 18 years ago, McKinney wouldn't be in this situation,'' said Bulla. 

Jackett, who is in prison for another crime, did not respond to the allegations, the Register said. 

Innocent Imprisoned
Truth in Justice