Missouri Judge Overturns Rape and Murder Conviction of Man Who Served More Than 30 Years for Crimes He Did Not Commit
Withheld Evidence Proves George Allen Jr. Was Wrongly Convicted
Contact: Alana Massie, 212-364-5983, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Jefferson City, MO; November 2, 2012) – A Cole County Judge today vacated the murder and rape conviction of George Allen Jr. based on the failure to disclose numerous pieces of evidence pointing to Allen’s innocence. Allen was convicted in 1983 and has served more than 30 years behind bars.
“Today we’re thrilled Judge Green has ruled that Mr. Allen’s conviction must be overturned because crucial exculpatory evidence was not disclosed,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “Given the overwhelming evidence pointing to Mr. Allen’s innocence, including DNA test results, we’re confident that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce will move quickly to inform the Court that she will not retry Mr. Allen and finally end his 30 year quest for justice.”
Police initially arrested Allen for the 1982 rape and murder of a St. Louis court reporter by accident, mistaking him for a suspect in the case. Even though Detective Herbert Riley realized he was not the suspect, he decided to interrogate him anyway. Allen, who is a diagnosed schizophrenic and had been admitted to psychiatric wards several times, eventually ended up making a recorded confession, which one of the interrogating officers has since conceded was questionable. On the recording of the interrogation, Allen informs the officers that he is under the influence of alcohol, and throughout the interrogation the detective prompts Allen to give him answers to fit the crime, often asking Allen to change his answer to do so.
“While many people find it hard to believe that someone would falsely confess to a crime, it happens with alarming frequency, playing a role in more than 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence,” said Olga Akselrod, Innocence Project staff attorney. “People with mental disabilities like Mr. Allen are particularly vulnerable to falsely confessing, and tragically, the police knew that there were problems with his confession, yet allowed him to be wrongly convicted while the real perpetrator was allowed to go free to commit other crimes.”
Allen was convicted based largely on his statement and purported serological evidence that he was a potential source of semen found on crime scene evidence. In fact, newly discovered police and lab documents that were not disclosed to the prosecution or defense show that police actually found semen samples excluding Allen and the victim’s consensual sex partners as the source. These undisclosed documents show that police relied on this serology evidence to exclude other suspects until they coerced the confession from Allen. The police also failed to turn over fingerprint evidence excluding Allen, a drawing that Allen was asked to draw of the victim’s apartment that did not match her apartment as well as evidence that a witness who was called to verify a small detail from Allen’s statement had undergone a police-organized hypnosis session before her testimony at trial. In overturning Mr. Allen’s conviction, the Court held that the State’s suppression of this evidence violated Mr. Allen’s constitutional rights because the evidence “was exculpatory, and because it could have been used to impeach – indeed, entirely undermine – the credibility of the State’s case at trial…. [T]he undisclosed evidence would have given the defense affirmative proof — foreign semen and fingerprints that could not have come from Allen – that someone else raped and killed Ms. Bell.” Allen’s lawyers have also obtained numerous rounds of DNA testing on crime scene evidence, all of which has excluded Allen.
“This grave injustice should have never happened and would have never happened if law enforcement was focused on finding the real perpetrator rather than building a case against someone they originally mistook for another suspect,” said Ameer Gado, Counsel with Bryan Cave LLP. “We’re just hopeful that this nightmare will end soon for Mr. Allen and his mother, who has supported him all these years,” added Daniel Harvath, Associate at Bryan Cave LLP.
Allen is represented by Scheck and Akselrod of the Innocence Project and Gado, Harvath, and Associate Tim O’Connell with Bryan Cave. Rosa Greenbaum of Sarasota, Florida also provided pro bono investigation assistance.