Walter Forbes Wiki, Biography
Walter Forbes was a young college student in 1982 when he came between two groups fighting outside a bar in his small Michigan town.
One of the men, Dennis Hall, retaliated the next day and shot Forbes four times. Soon after, Hall died in an apparent arson and Forbes was sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to court documents.
Now, after spending nearly four decades in prison, Forbes has been released after a key witness retracted his testimony.
Walter Forbes Age
Walter Forbes is 63 years old.
Walter Forbes Family
Forbes is now the patriarch of a family that was missing one, relatives said. He reveres his wisdom and insight.
“He’s already been able to bring a lot of our family together, a family that I didn’t really know before,” said Forbes nephew Imil Forbes, 40. “Now we are coming together and creating a strong bond.
“We needed him here for us to come together like this.”
Forbes’ biological son, Runako Forbes, 42, didn’t get to know his father until he was 13.
Runako was adopted. He didn’t fully understand where Forbes was and why until he met him when he was a teenager.
Runako related that she met her father for the first time: “There were a lot of people in the visiting room. I remember looking over my shoulders, seeing him and knowing that he was my dad. I had never seen a photo of him before, but in my heart, I knew it was him. He finally approached me and hugged me. I knew he was right. ”
She said that she loved her father before meeting him and that once she understood the situation and knew that his father was innocent, she became angry.
“I can’t pretend that he didn’t have much bitterness towards the world,” she said. “But I try to get further away from his behavior. He is more patient than me. He would never say ‘he couldn’t’ or ‘I can’t.’
A witness comes forward
While out on bail for the shooting, Hall died in a fire at his Jackson apartment. His fiancee was able to escape with her little daughter.
Fire investigators found a blue gasoline container at the scene and evidence of accelerators inside the building’s first floor, according to court documents.
Forbes said it learned of Hall’s death while listening to a morning radio show.
“Somehow they’re going to try to frame this for me,” Forbes told CNN. “That thought crossed my mind.”
Three months after the fire, a young mother showed up.
Annice Kennebrew said she had seen Forbes and two other men carrying red gasoline canisters near the building at the time of the fire and she saw them pour gasoline around her, according to court documents.
Kennebrew’s account differs from what fire investigators found. While she described gasoline being poured on the outside of the building, investigators found charring and evidence of accelerators only on the inside.
A container that smelled of gasoline was found at the site. It was blue, not red, according to court documents.
One of the defendants passed a polygraph test and the charges against him were dropped. One second he was acquitted. Only Forbes was convicted.
The jury heard only part of another set of evidence, about another person who benefited from the fire.
An anonymous informant called the police four days after the fire and held the owner of the building responsible.
The clue was deemed inadmissible at the time, according to current Forbes attorney Imran Syed.
David Jones, who had owned the building for eight years, secured it two months before the fire, according to the fire investigator’s notes summarized by the defense.
Jones died sometime before the Michigan Innocence Clinic took over the Forbes case, according to Syed.
At trial, Jones testified that the property’s maximum resale value was $ 35,000. The insurance paid $ 50,200, according to court documents.
After Forbes was convicted, a witness came forward and informed the local fire investigator that an acquaintance had admitted to setting Jones on fire in exchange for $ 1,000, according to court documents.
It was unclear if authorities followed up on the information.
In 1990, Jones did not object to an arson insurance fraud scheme in nearby Livingston County.
During the investigation, a conspirator mentioned that Jones was involved in a 1982 fire in Jackson, according to court documents.
While in prison, Forbes said he was flipping through a newspaper when he saw an article about the case. He said he was relieved when he saw how similar the arson cases were.
“He was a pattern with this guy,” Forbes told CNN.
A witness recants
Forbes approached the Michigan Innocence Clinic, which began investigating his case in 2010.
The clinic, run by lawyers and students at the University of Michigan, was shocked by the use of a single witness to convict a man of murder.
“We knew there were two things we wanted: to talk to the witness and see what his story was. We also knew that there had been an alternate suspect from the beginning in this case,” Syed said.
Syed and his team began to get closer to Kennebrew, trying to understand what exactly he had seen. Finally ill with a respiratory illness, she invited them to a friend’s house in Jackson in 2017.
“She said clearly,” Syed said. “She said that at the time of the fire she was 19 years old, and two men from the community took advantage of that.”
Weeks after the fire, two locals approached her and pressured her to implicate Forbes and two other men in the fire.
“They threatened to kill my children, parents, brothers and me if I did not report to the police and testify at the trial that I saw Walter and the other two men set fire,” Kennebrew said in a 2017 affidavit.
“Everything I told the police, and everything I testified at trial related to witnessing the start of the fire, was an invention,” the affidavit continued. “As far as I know, Walter had nothing to do with this crime.”
Kennebrew was hesitant to speak about her testimony when contacted by CNN. When she was asked if she had been pressured prior to her initial testimony, she said, “It was difficult. I was a girl.”
She said that she backed off “because it was the right thing to do.”
Kennebrew, Forbes and Syed said it was unclear why the two men pressured her to accuse the trio. Forbes said they may have been fighting with his brother, but he wasn’t sure of the exact reason.
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The Jackson County Circuit Court judge heard the case remotely in May and June.
The clinic argued that Forbes was owed a new trial based on Kennebrew’s retraction and Jones’ conviction in 1990.
“Nothing is impossible, but if you don’t have proof, you can’t sustain a conviction,” Syed said.
After re-investigating the case, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office decided to oppose the motion of the Michigan Innocence Clinic for relief from the trial.
In his response to the clinic’s brief, the county prosecutor argued that Forbes had to “show ‘more likely than not’ that the jury would acquit him” if he was granted a new trial.
The prosecutor’s presentation also argued that the inconsistencies in Kennebrew’s original testimony were insignificant, and she could have been “easily” confused about the colors while the rest of her account was sound.
Prosecutors also questioned why the two men pressured Kennebrew to testify in the first place. Both men have since died, according to court documents.
The Jackson County prosecutor did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.
The judge dismissed Forbes’ conviction this fall and the county prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Forbes was released on November 20. He said he hopes to continue the work he started in prison with the prison reform groups. Being released, he said, has been like seeing a “vision unfold.”
Syed learned of the Forbes case when he was a law student at the University of Michigan, he worked at the clinic and worked on the case during his first decade as a lawyer.
“It’s not that complicated. It’s not a DNA case. It’s not a forensic science case. It’s pretty straightforward,” Syed said. “It’s quite sad that it took 38 years.”