A Buffalo criminal justice system of nearly a half-century ago is going to get a close look within weeks. State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns has ordered a court hearing on a request to quash convictions from a 1976 murder on Fillmore Avenue.
There’s always been some questioning about the trials in the murder of William Crawford. Five Black teens -- the so-called Buffalo Five -- were charged. One had a family who could hire a private lawyer and the other four had public defenders.
Defense lawyer and later Judge James McLeod won an acquittal for Martin Floyd, using a photograph showing the prosecution story couldn’t be true. John Walker served 22 years in prison and 18 years on parole for his conviction and has always denied he committed the murder. He has been using Freedom of Information laws for evidence to prove his claim.
The name of the claimed actual killer has bubbled on the surface consistently and the photograph no one has seen in nearly 50 years allegedly would prove he did it, but the photo has vanished.
It’s not clear there ever was a transcript of the Floyd trial to prove the photograph was used. However, McLeod, now retired, has gone on record that the photograph did exist and was used at trial.
Current lawyer Paul Cambria said McLeod will testify about the picture even if it can no longer be found.
"What happens with photographs, when you put one in evidence and it’s in your exhibits and the case is over, they turn them back over to you," Cambria said. "So we would have expected that to have gone to McLeod, but may not have. He may have left the courtroom and just left the exhibits there, which is a possibility. There is no requirement that they be saved because his client was acquitted."
"We're moving forward. I feel that, uh, justice is just around the bend. I really do," said Darryl Boyd, who served 20 years in prison and is still on parole. "And I'd like to add that the attorneys, the judge, will get to the nitty gritty, get to the bottom line. Just ask for justice."
The hearing will likely be in late April or early May.