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Judge Belvin Perry on convicted murderers set free: Forging my signature "not hard to do"

12:30 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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Escaped inmates Charles Walker (left) and Joseph Jenkins (right)

 

(CBS News) -- An escape from prison would present a challenge to any inmate, but Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, didn't have to scale walls or fences. Guards led each of them right out the front gate, Jenkins on Sept. 27 and Walker on Oct. 8.

Forged documents, obtained by CBS News, granted both Jenkins and Walker reduced sentences and an immediate release. Both also bear the signature of 9th district Chief Justice Belvin Perry.

"It is quite evident that someone had some knowledge of the judicial system and how the judicial system operates," said Perry.

Perry presided over the highly publicized trial of Casey Anthony in 2011. His signature is widely available on public documents and easily accessible online.

"I think it was lifted off another document and placed on that document which is not hard to do," he said. 

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller told the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts that it most likely would not have been the prisoners who created and filed the documents for their early release. He suggested it could have been someone within the system of jailhouse lawyers or paralegals on the outside who were in the prisoner's circle of associates.

"I think what you're looking at, at minimum, is someone who's got enough background to put together a very convincing legal looking document, somebody with enough technical knowledge in a computer to get a real looking signature cut and pasted onto the bottom so it doesn't look cut and pasted and to get it filed where the court documents would come from," he said.

Joseph Jenkins was serving a life sentence related to a robbery and murder in 1989. Charles Walker was sentenced to life after a murder conviction in 1998.

The fake forms reduced the sentences of both men to just 15 years, but just how the inmates managed to create the documents is now the focus of a Florida department of corrections internal investigation.

Florida's governor is calling the manhunt everyone's top priority.

"First thing you do when something like this happens - let's solve the problem at hand. I mean we need to apprehend these individuals and that's what we're working on," said Governor Rick Scott.

Jenkins and Walker are both from the Orlando area and it is believed they may have returned there soon after being released.

"They have the advantage of time and planning, this is not a scheme that they dreamed up overnight so they might have had an exit plan that took them out of the zone," Miller said.

However, Miller also explained that the next step would to be to start looking at their circle of associates to see who visited them, who called them and who these men socialized with inside and outside of the prison.

"Then you start to squeeze that social network so that people they've contacted or may have contacted feel heat and people they may turn to later may not want to help them."

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