State Appeals Court Denies AG Appeal, Clearing the Path for Missouri Man’s Full Exoneration
George Allen Jr. to be Exonerated After Serving More Than 30 Years For Crimes He Did Not Commit
Paul Cates, 212.364.5346, email@example.com
(ST. LOUIS, MO — December 26, 2012) A Missouri appeals court today denied Attorney General Chris Koster’s meritless appeal of the November ruling that had overturned George Allen Jr.’s conviction for a rape and murder that new and previously undisclosed evidence proves Allen did not commit, clearing the path for Allen’s full exoneration. In a statement released by the Attorney General’s Office on November 8, 2012, Koster said he will defer to the Appellate Court and not pursue further action in this matter.
“We’re thrilled the appeals court has acted quickly to dismiss the Attorney General’s meritless appeal,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “We are relying on Attorney General Koster to keep his word and not further delay justice for Mr. Allen and his family by further appealing today’s decision.”
The decision follows the November 2, 2012 ruling by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green that freed Allen and vacated his murder and rape conviction based on the State’s failure to disclose numerous pieces of evidence pointing to his innocence. Allen was convicted in 1983 and served more than 30 years behind bars before Judge Green ordered his release on November 14, 2012. Koster filed the appeal to a state intermediate appeals court despite St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s announcement that she would not retry Allen for the crime. The Court of Appeals has now also asked that Jennifer Joyce formally restate her intentions as to whether to retry Mr. Allen.
“This day has been a long time coming for Mr. Allen,” said Ameer Gado, an attorney with Bryan Cave LLP. “But we’re hopeful that this ruling will finally mean that Mr. Allen can put this nightmare behind him.”
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 301 DNA exonerations.
“While it may be hard for most people to imagine anyone falsely confessing to a crime they didn’t commit, law enforcement knows it’s a reality and is trained to look for corroborating evidence,” said Olga Akselrod, staff attorney with the Innocence Project. “In this case, law enforcement shamefully suppressed critical pieces of evidence pointing to his innocence, destroying the life of an innocent man and placing the public at risk while the real killer remains free to commit other crimes.”
Scheck added, “We hope that the Circuit Attorney’s Office will now make renewed efforts to find the real perpetrator of this brutal crime. We believe that a full reinvestigation into the murder of Mary Bell is warranted to ensure that every possible lead is followed.”
Allen was convicted based largely on his statement that was elicited through the interrogation supervised by Detective Herb Riley 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.
“To ensure other Missouri citizens never face what Mr. Allen endured, the state must order an independent audit of other cases handled by this detective and serologist,” said Laura O’Sullivan, Legal Director of the Midwest Innocence Project. “It’s the only way to restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
Allen narrowly escaped receiving the death penalty after the jury issued the guilty verdict by a stroke of luck. 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, Daniel Harvath and Tim O’Connell with Bryan Cave, LLP. Rosa Greenbaum of Sarasota, Florida also provided pro bono investigation assistance.