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Walker Free - Until November Trial

July 5, 1985

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Twice convicted of killing a policeman, former death row inmate and celebrated fugitive James Dean Walker was freed on $150,000 bond Friday, pending his third trial for the 22-year-old crime.

Walker, 44, whose tale is to be the subject of a made-for-television movie, was sentenced in 1964 to die in Arkansas’ electric chair for the April 1963 shooting murder of North Little Rock patrolman Jerrell Vaughan.

In 1965 he won a new trial from the state Supreme Court, was convicted a second time after a five-day trial and was sentenced to life in prison.

Professing to have become a ″born-again″ Christian in prison, Walker ran away from a five-day furlough in March 1975 and lived as a fugitive until his capture in California in September 1979.

On May 17, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Walker’s second conviction, citing new evidence that could help his case, and evidence of bias by his trial judge.

Pulaski County Judge Floyd Lofton on Friday ordered Walker to stand trial on Nov. 18, and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Nov. 14.

Before ordering Walker’s release on bond, Lofton imposed a gag order on Walker, his attorneys, Prosecutor Chris Piazza and Attorney General Steve Clark.

″You are to grant no interviews to news media anywhere,″ Lofton said. ″I don’t want to see or read anything about this in the papers. If it’s to be tried, it will be tried here, not in the media.″

Walker told the judge he planned to move to Stateline, Nev., on the south side of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border, where his girlfriend, Leeta Harris, resides.

Walker can travel anywhere in the continental United States, Lofton said, but must report to the sheriff’s office in Stateline once a week until the trial.

Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Tressie Gilbert said Walker was released at 12:40 p.m. Friday.

Walker’s 1964 conviction and death sentence was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 1965, which cited errors by the prosecution.

After his escape and capture in California, Walker fought extradition to Arkansas, saying his life would be endangered in Arkansas prison.

After returning to Arkansas, Walker sought and was granted federal protective custody by the 8th Circuit and was confined to Federal prison in El Reno, Okla.

Actor Mike Farrell, who appeared in the television series ″M-A-S-H,″ is scheduled to star in a CBS television movie about Walker.

Farrell said recently that several versions of the script had been written but that the movie has been delayed while the 8th Circuit considered Walker’s case.

Update hourly