As authorities hunt for two killers who were mistakenly freed by bogus court documents, prison officials and prosecutors across Florida scrambled to make sure no other inmates had been let out early.
The review comes three weeks after convicted murderer Joseph Jenkins walked out of prison, despite a life sentence. A week after he was let go, Charles Walker, who was also serving life, also was released.
It’s not clear exactly who worked up the fake documents ordering their release. Authorities said the paperwork in both cases was filed in the last couple of months and included forged signatures from the same prosecutor’s office and Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry. The documents also called for 15-year sentences.
Perry said Thursday there were several red flags that should have attracted the attention of the court clerk’s office or the Corrections Department. Namely, it’s rare for a judge to order a sentence reduction, and even more uncommon for the request to come from prosecutors.
“One of the things we have never taken a close look at is the verification of a particular document to make sure it’s the real McCoy,” he said. “I knew that that was always a possibility, but you never want that possibility occurring in the way that it did.”
Prisoners have had varying success trying to use bogus documents to escape. Many forgeries are discovered early, but there have been cases where inmates walk free.
In Florida, Jenkins was let out Sept. 27, and Walker was freed Oct. 8.
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