Activists call for release of Lamar Burks, who was convicted of 1997 murder

There is a growing movement to prove Burks' innocence in murder conviction.

HOUSTON – Local and national activists Thursday called for the case of a Houston man convicted of murder to be dropped, citing several concerns, including the conviction of a now-former DEA agent who was key to his arrest. 

A jury convicted Lamar Burks of murder in October 2000. Burks is accused of killing Earl Perry in July 1997, although he has maintained his innocence. Burks said he was in Louisiana at the time of the murder as KPRC 2 Investigates has reported

The NAACP Houston Branch held a news conference Thursday, along with Burks' daughter and Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney, calling on Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg to drop the case.

"The right decision is to exonerate this man," said Bishop James Dixon, vice president of the NAACP's Houston branch. 

Burks' case has received recent attention following the conviction of Chad Scott. Scott, now a former DEA agent, is on house arrest in Louisiana awaiting sentencing. In August, a federal jury in New Orleans found Scott guilty on seven counts, including obstruction of justice, coercion and falsifying government records.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Scott was assigned to the DEA's Houston bureau. Scott and Jack Schumacher, then his partner, were key in investigating Burks' alleged role in Perry's death.

As KPRC 2 Investigates reported, Randy Lewis, the man who testified before a grand jury that Burks was the gunman, has flipped, according to court documents. 

In a sworn statement to Burks' defense attorney, Lewis alleged Scott coerced him to implicate Burks. 

According to Crump, Burks' case "is based on these crooked cops with badges at the highest level of our government that have been exposed."

Crump, a civil rights attorney, is not representing Burks in his criminal case, although Burks' family has hired him for legal counsel. 

An evidentiary hearing has been rescheduled for January.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office did not comment on Thursday's press conference. In previous reports, the office has stood behind its case, stressing it has the witness it needs to maintain Burks' guilt. 

Burks' daughter, Jada, sees things differently. 

"I don't wish this upon any other kid," Jada Burks, 21, said, holding back tears. 

Jada Burks was a 1-year-old at the time of her father's conviction. She said she talks to father every day over the phone about his conviction and their fight for freedom.

"It's hard to have to talk to your dad over the phone, behind a glass," she said. "You can't give him a hug, have a physical relationship with him. It's just over the phone through a glass."