Ralph Evans, commonly known as Quanell X, is pushing for the removal of Judge Layne Walker after what he called excessive sentences for white, black and minority defendants.
Evans, who called Walker a racist for his sentencing of minority offenders, held a small rally in front of Walker’s courtroom Friday, Aug. 19.
“We believe Layne Walker is an unjust judge,” said Evans, the leader of Houston’s chapter of the New Black Panther Party. Of the cases he pointed out, Evans brought up the recent sentencing of Eddie Keller, a 20-year-old Port Arthur man who was given three life sentences for his role in a series of armed robberies. Judge Layne Walker, who presides over the 252nd District Criminal Court, said he cannot and will not comment on any allegations referring to the cases.
Keller, who doesn’t turn 21 until October, violated his probation for aggravated robberies he committed in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Harris County, where he used a firearm during the robberies. He still has two aggravated robbery charges pending.
“I can stand here all day and say I am not a racist,” Walker said. “I have lived here 46 years and become friends with leaders from every walk of life in this community. When I ran for this office, I promised equality and equal access to everyone at that courthouse and you contact any of the leaders in the black community and they will tell you that I have lived up to my word.”
Still, Evans questions the sentencing.
“How can you give a man three life sentences? No one was killed, no one was shot, and in fact, in one of the robberies, he was charged with stealing some CDs,” Evans said. “Now the man gets three life sentences? I thought Christ Jesus said any man or woman that can reach the depths of hell can also scale the heights of heaven if they make atonement to repent for their sins and they’re corrected. But this brother has to die three times over and come back to life three times before, in Judge Walker’s eyes, he served his time and paid his debt to society?”
Show of support
Walker took exception to Evans’ comments, especially regarding those made by Evans that the local black leaders were hiding and would not come out and speak up against Walker.
“The thing about it is, what kind of a world do we live in when a guy can come over here from Houston and make a statement like he has and then saying that it was based on what he heard from others?” Walker said. “As he stood there making those comments, not one single person locally from the leaders in the black community were there in support of him. Not one. The best comment that I can make is that not one of our local leaders from the black community showed up to support him. They spoke for me by their absence. I want to express my thanks to the local people who didn’t show up.”Walker went on to question Evans’ credibility.
“You have to remember that you are talking about a guy who doesn’t even qualify to sit on a jury. He has so many biases and prejudices that he doesn’t qualify to be a juror. If you don’t qualify to serve on a jury what credibility do you have when you make the types of comments he did?
“He (Evans) said he spoke to two local pastors who he claims were afraid to come out, but I have never known our local leaders to be cowards. They are not ashamed, and they are not too bashful to stand up to injustice, and none of our local leaders saw any injustice. Unless he is willing to move to Beaumont, get a law degree – if he is even eligible to do so – and run for judge, then he can take his sense of justice and his beliefs about what our community needs and go back to where he came from. I just don’t know how else to say it.”
Walker admitted the comments were biting but said he and those who know him also know what Evans said about him wasn’t true. He added that he had several minority children who are friends of his own children, that were at his house wanting to show their support for him when they heard what was being said.
“It hurts. I have a wife and three kids,” Walker said. “We had a houseful of kids over here on Wednesday and I think 13 of them were African-American and all wanted to show up and whip his rear for what he was saying.”
Local Rev. J.D. Roberts, who heads the organization Save Our Children, a community group that reaches out to at-risk youth throughout the community, said he has never known Walker to exhibit racial bias. In fact, he said Walker goes out of his way to help all young people.
“I support Layne Walker 24/7,” Roberts said. “You know, he (Evans) tried to come up to me in the courthouse and I walked away from him. I don’t support what he was saying because I know Judge Walker is a fair man. He has helped out lots of young black men in this community and given them a second chance. To call him racist is not right because I can’t count the number of times that I have known him to help someone out by giving them a second chance when they made a mistake.”
James Makin, a local defense attorney who’s been practicing law in Beaumont for 30 years, said he wasn’t sure what Evans’ rally was all about, and disagrees with the assertion that Walker is a racist.
“He’s color-blind, pure and simple,” Makin said. “Those are extreme cases, but he wants you to be honest with him, and if he sees you’re sincere and trying, he’ll go the extra mile to get you that help and give you that chance. But if your attitude is no big deal, and you don’t take it serious, he’ll get your attention.”
And in regards to Keller’s case and the three life sentences, Makin, who admits he’s been on the losing side of some harsh sentences during his career, doesn’t see a problem with Walker’s ruling.
“Judge Walker has a job to protect the public, and in that instance, an aggravated robbery with weapons, you beat someone or threaten to shoot them real bad, and then you get deferred adjudication, and then you go and commit more aggravated robberies — as a citizen, I’m glad he did what he did. As a defense lawyer, you do everything you can to explain to your client the seriousness of it, and (Walker) does, also. I kind of think those (sentences) were warranted.”
Fred Davis can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 227, or by e-mail at fred [at] theexaminer [dot] com.