Buffalo 5 Update: A Teenager’s “Back in The Day” Letter of Innocence: What Good Will It Do in Their Fight For Freedom Now?

pictured above: John Walker and Byron Lockwood best friends back in the day

Story by Sherry Sherrill

Justice. That is what this is about.

This past May, Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron C. Lockwood gave a hand-written 1976 letter he received from Buffalo 5 Member John Henry Walker, Jr., to the Office Of Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. In that correspondence, written and received when both Walker and Lockwood were 16 years old, Walker proclaimed his innocence of the murder of Mr. William Crawford, the latter whom Walker and five of his friends, Darryl Boyd, Darryn Gibson, Floyd Martin, and Tyrone Woodruff had been arrested for having killed. At the time the letter was written, Walker was being held in Erie County Holding Center. In 1977, Walker, Boyd, and Gibson were each wrongly convicted of the murder, and were each wrongly sentenced to spend over two decades in New York State prisons.

That letter may be yet another piece of evidence to substantiate their decades long declaration of innocence, but sadly it’s too late to use as new evidence in their case.  Why would a youthful “best friend”   wait so long to come forward with the letter?  Why would  he   give it to the DA instead of Walker so it could be used by Walker to help them it their case?

 It appears that Lockwood is just tryig to save face;  to make it look like he’s   helping these innocent men.   But he has done nothing to help for all these years even though he’s always believed in their innocence. According to Walker, “he went so far as to tell the DA he believed me back  when we were teenagers when he received my letter and he believes in my innocence to this day.” 

At 10:00AM, Tuesday, July 20th, in The Honorable Christopher J. Burns’ Part Nineteen courtroom on the third floor of New York State Supreme Court in downtown Buffalo (NY), 

John Henry Walker, Jr. and Darryl Boyd- collectively referred to as ‘The Buffalo 5’- will return for continuation and closing arguments of a proceeding that was launched in October of 2020, to vacate their wrongful 1976 murder indictment (Erie County Number 41-413) and to overturn their wrongful 1977 murder convictions.      Back in 1976, sixteen year old friends John Walker, Darryl Boyd, Darryn Gibson, Floyd Martin, and Tyrone Woodruff, were all arrested by Buffalo Police, for the heinous beating death of Mr. William Crawford, who had also been robbed. Crawford, a Caucasian senior citizen, resided on Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo, across from the Golden Nugget Inn. All of the Buffalo 5 are African  American. Four of these young men, Walker, Boyd, Gibson, and Martin, were subsequently indicted, tried, and convicted of the crime, though they consistently and persistently proclaimed themselves to be innocent, and, in fact, were! Martin, who was exonerated at trial, is now, like Gibson, deceased. 

After being released from prison during the 1990’s, Walker and Boyd continued their protests, to this very day. Woodruff, their former friend whom had turned (falsified) State’s Evidence and was never prosecuted for the Crawford murder, joined Walker and Boyd at public rallies,despite having been the prosecution’s primary witness at their 1977 trials. Indeed, as recently as last Summer (2020), Woodruff declared, publicly, that during his 1976 interrogation by Buffalo Police, he was subjected to extreme duress and relentless pressure. Frightened, and questioned without his parents being present, he says he eventually lied and implicated his four friends. 

Fast forward to the Buffalo Police Department of year 2021, where Byron C. Lockwood, the same Byron Lockwood who was once a close friend of a young John Walker, Jr., is now the Commissioner of Police. The irony is sobering.

When next The Buffalo 5 return to Supreme Court, it is hoped that the new evidence that has been presented, and which has been supported by the thoughtful testimony given by now retired Buffalo City Court Judge James A.W. McCleod at the previous court appearance this past June, will drive home the overarching premise articulated in the Motion To Vacate document filed on behalf of TheBuffalo 5, in October of last year. That is: Photographic evidence utilized to exonerate McCleod’s former Buffalo 5 client (Martin) back in 1977, was wrongfully withheld from both  Walker’s and Boyd’s defense counsels that same year, and such violation of Walker’s and Boyd’s civil and human rights has re-occurred in the present-day, due to the current climate of unfairness caused by their continued lack of access to such exculpatory evidence.

If Judge Burns renders such determination, the wrongful convictions and indictments of John Walker  and Darryl Boyd will be struck down and vacated, and The Buffalo 5 will be exonerated of their (wrongful) convicted felon and parolee status. It will have been an exceedingly long, exceedingly traumatic, exceedingly arduous journey that will have been about justice. That is what this is about.

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