After 21 years in prison, ex-convict fights to clear his name

A former convict says that he was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit - and wants to clear his name before he dies

The Family Dollar that Melvin Walters was convicted of robbing is long gone just like, he says, the years he spent in prison for the crime he did not commit.

Now at 68 years old, he's spending what time he has left to prove his innocence.

"I'm free, I'm still free," Walters said. "But I took a whooping' a long time ago for something I didn't do. Twenty-one years."

Weathered, but not worn out, Walters is on a crusade to clear his name.

"I've been hollering about my innocence ever since I got convicted," Walters said. 

He was released from prison in 2010 after spending more than two decades behind bars, convicted of armed robbery in 1989.

Walters says his fingerprints were not at the crime scene. In fact he wasn't there, the day it was held up.

"The woman who got robbed at Family Dollar store said the man that robbed her had a pistol in his left hand, 5 feet 11, missing teeth in the upper part of his mouth in the papers there," he said. "These (teeth) don't come out. I'm right handed."

And according to prison records he's 5 feet six inches.

Even so, Walters was arrested and was told he fit the description of the robber.

"I was sitting in the bullpen, me and other guys discussing our case," Walters said. "And over in the corner there, there was a guy sitting there he overheard us talking about our cases."

And that's when Walters says he met the man he believes really committed the crime. 

"Out of the clear blue sky he said, 'Man they got you on a Family Dollar store,'" Walters recalled. "I said 'Yeah what about it?' He said he did it."

Walters was eventually convicted but says the man confessed to his lawyers.

He has a letter from Joan Ellerbusch Morgan, the  attorney who represented Walters during his appeal

"'Dear Mr. Walters I did speak with (name of the man) at the Wayne County Jail. He admits responsibility for the robbery but refuses to do so in open court.'"

The man later died and Walters, an army veteran, spent 21 years in prison.

"I just lost everything," Walter said. "Now I'm 68 years old, I'm out, I'm free. And I just want the world to know that I'm an innocent man."

The Michigan Innocence Clinic in Ann Arbor is reviewing Walter's case, gathering evidence to figure out if anything went wrong and whether or not its lawyers will represent him. 

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