Douglas Walker, a career criminal who inspired California’s Three Strikes law, was found guilty Wednesday of beating his girlfriend – a conviction that sets him up for his third strike and life in prison.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge W. Kent Hamlin found Walker, 52, guilty of a felony charge of corporal injury to his girlfriend, along with three felony charges of dissuading the woman from testifying against him.
In addition, Walker was found guilty of violating a court order, a misdemeanor, and not guilty of making criminal threats against his girlfriend.
The verdict ends a long criminal journey for Walker, who avoided a murder conviction in the June 1992 death of 18-year-old Kimber Reynolds by pleading guilty to robbery charges. The killing of Reynolds outside a popular Fresno restaurant prompted her father, Mike Reynolds, to create a ballot initiative for the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law, which mandates tougher sentences for repeat offenders in California.
Prosecutor Kelly Smith said Walker faces 102 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 26.
After the verdict was announced, prosecutor Kelly Smith said the convictions for dissuading a victim or witness from testifying gives Walker three more strikes under the Three Strikes law. Walker previously received three strikes for his role in the Kimber Reynolds killing, before the law was enacted, Smith said. A defendant can receive a strike for a serious or violent felony. Two strikes doubles the sentence, and the third strike results in a sentence of 25 years to life.
By Smith’s calculation, Walker faces 102 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 26.
But Fresno defense lawyer Eric Green said he plans to file a motion asking Hamlin to overturn some of Walker’s prior strikes and give him a shorter prison sentence. “He deserves to be punished,” Green said, “but he should not spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Court records say Walker’s life of crime began at age 13, when he was arrested for inhaling fumes and selling heroin. Before age 18, he had been arrested three times for being drunk in public. That was followed by arrests for petty theft and drugs, court documents show.
Because of his link to the killing of Reynolds and the notoriety that comes with it, Walker waived his right to a jury trial in the domestic violence case.
Walker was charged with beating his girlfriend, Karrie Alvarado, making criminal threats against her, and attempting to dissuade her from testifying against him. Walker was arrested in February 2014; Alvarado died in March 2015, likely from a life of drugs and alcohol, authorities said. She was 56.
Because Alvarado died, Smith called neighbors who saw or heard Walker fighting with Alvarado and the police officers who interviewed her. Smith also played Alvarado’s 911 call and jailhouse conversations Walker and Alvarado had in March 2014.
He deserves to be punished, but he should not spend the rest of his life in prison.
Fresno defense lawyer Eric Green
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Smith said Walker gave Alvarado a black eye and a bloody nose and threatened her with a dowel. In the jail telephone conversations, Smith said, Walker clearly urges Alvarado “not to talk to the DA,” and asked her to not accept a subpoena from the prosecution to testify.
In one conversation, Walker tells Alvarado to recant what she told police. He also tells her to disappear before his trial. “I need you to be gone,” he says.
But Green said the evidence is questionable because Alvarado was drunk, hysterical, and incoherent when she talked to police. He said it was unclear when she suffered the black eye because it didn’t appear to be serious in the police photographs. “If he hit her with a dowel, she would have been hospitalized,” Green told the judge.
Green said the jail conversations show Walker and Alvarado mostly talking about sex, family and their lack of money. “The calls showed they cared for each other,” Green said.
In his ruling, Hamlin said Alvarado appeared to be intoxicated and hysterical, but she was credible when she told police Walker had hit her, “presumably with his fist.” The judge also said it was clear that Walker was actively trying to dissuade her from testifying against him.
Judge W. Kent Hamlin said the evidence showed Walker was actively trying to dissuade the victim from testifying against him.
Outside court, Green said Hamlin followed the law when he convicted Walker. But he said Walker doesn’t deserve to spend his life behind bars. “Everybody thinks he is a poster boy for the Three Strikes law,” Green said. But Walker has no previous violent crime conviction in his background, Green said.
In the Reynolds murder, Green said, Walker and Joe Davis were high on heroin when they tried to steal Reynolds’ purse. Walker didn’t know Davis was going to shoot her, Green said. Davis was later killed by police.
Walker, who later surrendered to police, received a nine-year prison sentence for his role in the Reynolds killing but was paroled after serving 4 1/2 years. Within a few weeks of his release, he violated parole and was arrested and sent back to prison. Since then he has been in and out of prison.
He could have received his third strike – and a 25 years-to-life prison term – after being convicted of stealing a tool chest in 2003. He avoided the strike because a judge gave him the benefit of the doubt and a lesser punishment of 12 years and four months, court records show.
In November 2013, Walker was released from prison and placed on low-level supervision in Fresno. Three months later, police arrested him for hitting Alvarado.