Missouri Man Exonerated After Serving More Than 30 Years for a Rape and Murder Evidence Shows He Didnit Commit
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Filed a Motion Officially Dismissing the Case Against George Allen Jr.
Contact: Alana Massie, 212.364.5983, firstname.lastname@example.org
(ST. LOUIS, MO – January 18, 2013) — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce filed a motion today dismissing the indictment against George Allen Jr., finally completing his 30 year struggle to clear his name. The motion follows a December 26, 2012 appeals court decision upholding the lower court’s decision overturning Allen’s conviction based on the state’s failure to disclose evidence establishing Allen’s innocence.
“We are grateful for Circuit Attorney Joyce’s decision to put this case to rest once and for all and for her initiative to prevent the police practices that led to his wrongful conviction,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “Mr. Allen may have been released from prison two months ago, but it wasn’t until today that he was truly granted his freedom.”
In a statement issued today after dismissing the indictment, Joyce said that the “justice system has completely failed both Mary Bell [the victim] and George Allen.” She also expressed concern about the fact that important evidence was never turned over to the defense and said, “I am committed to finding a permanent solution to ensure that the mistakes made in the George Allen case do not happen again.”
Allen was convicted in 1983 and served more than 30 years behind bars before Cole County Circuit Court Judge Green ordered his release on November 14, 2012. Allen’s exoneration was delayed when Attorney General Koster filed an appeal to a state intermediate appeals court, despite Joyce’s earlier announcement that she would not retry Allen.
“This day is long overdue,” said Ameer Gado, an attorney with Bryan Cave LLP. “After decades of patience and hope, George and his mother can finally move on from this nightmare.” “Mr. Allen can now enjoy the freedom he has always deserved,” added Dan Harvath, another of Mr. Allen’s attorneys from Bryan Cave LLP.
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 Allen was not the suspect, Riley decided to interrogate him anyway. Allen, who is a diagnosed schizophrenic and had been admitted to psychiatric wards several times, ended up making a false recorded confession that 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. 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.
False confessions such as Allen’s have played a role in more than 25% of the 302 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence.
“While the public may find it hard to believe that someone would falsely confess to a crime, police know it’s not that uncommon and are trained to look for other evidence to corroborate the statement,” said Olga Akselrod, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project. “In this case they did just the opposite, burying evidence that proved Mr. Allen’s innocence. While Mr. Allen was locked up for a crime he didn’t commit, the real perpetrator has been allowed to go free, putting the public at risk.”
Allen was convicted based largely on his false confession and on serology evidence, which has since been proven false, that was conducted by lab analyst Joseph Crow. 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. Other undisclosed documents show that police relied on this serology evidence to exclude other suspects until they coerced the confession from Allen. The prosecution 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 and evidence that a witness who was called to verify a detail from Allen’s statement had been subjected to a police-organized hypnosis session in order to recall the incident.
“When injustice of this magnitude is uncovered, the only way to restore public confidence in the system is to conduct a systematic review to see how many others could be serving time for crimes they didn’t commit. The state has an obligation to look into every case handled by the detective and the serologist involved in this case,” said Laura O’Sullivan, Legal Director of the Midwest Innocence Project.
Allen narrowly escaped receiving the death penalty after the jury issued the guilty verdict by a stroke of fate. A juror was relieved of duty due to a family emergency and as a result the sentencing could not be held and the state was forced to waive the death penalty.
Allen is represented by Scheck and Akselrod of the Innocence Project and Gado, Harvath and Tim O’Connell with Bryan Cave, LLP. Rosa Greenbaum of Sarasota, Florida also provided pro bono investigation assistance.