Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New policy after cons walk out of prison

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- As authorities continue their nationwide manhunt for a pair of convicted killers accused of conning their way out of lifetime prison sentences, corrections officials announced a policy change Friday intended to ensure they don't get fooled again.

Officials also confirmed Charles Bernard Walker and Joseph Ivan Jenkins walked into the Orange County Jail days after they got out of prison -- not to turn themselves in, but to re-enter society.

Jenkins and Walker, both 34, arrived at the jail Sept. 30 and Oct. 11, respectively, to register as felons, a requirement for newly released convicts that includes getting fingerprinted.

Within days, authorities would realize the pair never should have got out of prison: Corrections officials had been duped by fraudulent court orders that said their sentences had been reduced.

The Florida Department of Corrections told judges across the state, in light of the forgeries, orders that modify inmate sentences will have to be verified by a judge before they're carried out.

At a news conference Friday, Sheriff Jerry Demings said his agency is responsible for finding the men who are now on the loose due to the "system's breakdown." He called the situation "frustrating" for law officers.

Demings announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to each man will be advertised on electronic billboards across Orange County.

Orlando attorney Nicole Benjamin said she was horrified when she learned from news reporters her name was used in the fraudulent documents that helped spring two murderers from state prison in north Florida.

"I completely had no idea," Benjamin said after she had a chance to examine the phony orders that freed them. "I don't have anything to do with this."

Benjamin, who has practised law for 12 years, said she has never met Jenkins or Walker and doesn't represent murder defendants.

Before their release, Jenkins was serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder of a father of six in 1998, Walker for a second-degree murder conviction in 1999.

-- Orlando Sentinel

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 A32

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