Attorneys for convicted spy Arthur James Walker argued today that prosecutors failed to prove that documents the former Navy officer supplied to his brother, admitted spy ring leader John Anthony Walker Jr., ever reached the Soviets.

In seeking to overturn Walker's conviction, defense lawyer J. Brian Donnelly told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Walker never believed the Soviets received the classified papers he gave his brother.

The argument was an extension of the defense strategy used by Arthur Walker's court-appointed attorneys at his trial last August. Lawyers for Jerry Alfred Whitworth, an alleged member of the Walker spy ring now on trial in San Francisco, are trying to show that there is no proof their client knew the documents he is charged with delivering John Walker were for the Soviets.

Arthur Walker, 51, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, admitted passing classified documents obtained from his employer, a Chesapeake, Va., defense contractor, to his brother. But attorney Samuel Meekins Jr. said he did it because "he just wanted to show his brother he had nothing of value."

Federal Judge J. Calvitt Clarke Jr. sentenced Arthur Walker to three life terms plus 40 years and fined him $250,000. He is serving his sentence in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa., and may be called as a witness in Whitworth's espionage trial.

"All the government has is that Arthur Walker took the information and passed it to John Walker, and what happened at that point is not known," Donnelly said. "At that point the trail is cold."

In testimony at Whitworth's trial last week, John Walker testified that his brother's documents, mostly about the readiness of Navy ships, were "utterly worthless."

Meekins said that "Arthur Walker did not believe that what he did was injurious to the United States or advantageous to any foreign country."

But Senior Justice John Butzner Jr. questioned that assertion, reading aloud portions of Arthur Walker's confessions to the FBI. "This man was probably as knowledgeable about the information he was giving as anyone in the country," Butzner said.