ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - A man convicted of murder and rape will get a second chance after lawyers uncovered evidence in his case hidden in police files. Cole County Judge Daniel Green overturned the capital murder, rape, sodomy and first degree burglary charges against 56-year old George Allen, Junior on Friday after determining evidence beneficial to him was withheld.
The St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has ten days to decide whether to retry Allen in the 1982 murder and rape of 31-year old Mary Bell of the LaSalle Park neighborhood.
At the time of the crime DNA testing was not available. Allen was picked up by police because he looked like another suspect they wanted to talk to. After questioning by detectives, he confessed. But there was no physical evidence like fingerprints presented to the jury that linked Allen to the crime.
The murder took place February 4, 1982 just a few days after a paralyzing snow storm in St. Louis. Allen's mother, Lonzetta Taylor said he was at her home in University City. Allen suffered from schizophrenia and worked construction for a neighbor.
The Innocence Project became interested in his case after DNA testing showed no match to physical evidence at the crime scene. The Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis assigned two attorneys to investigate. Lawyers Dan Harvath and Ameer Gado along with support staff and private investigators worked over four years to build a case to prove Allen's innocence.
"Evidence wasn't shared with the prosecution; it wasn't shared with the defense so Mr. Allen has clear evidence strongly pointing to his innocence he was never allowed to present that at trial," Harvath said Saturday.
Forensic tests completed by the St. Louis Police Department in 1982 were among the evidence never turned over to prosecutors or defense attorneys. Those tests showed Allen's blood type differed from blood found at the murder scene.
Recent "DNA testing was done; we didn't get a clear profile pointing to some other perpetrator at this point but everything, all the testing that was obtained, supported George's innocence and none of it pointed to George," said Gado.
Gado added police testified at Allen's trial that all fingerprints found at the scene had been matched to individuals, either the victim or a police officer who responded to the crime or to the victim's boyfriend who was not a suspect.
"In fact what we've now found is that there were at least seven usable fingerprints from the crime scene that were never matched to anyone; that's still a possibility that certain of those prints could match an individual if they are in the system," Gado explained.
The lawyers also raised questions about Allen's confession.
"If you listen to the tape recording of his confession and you look at his confession, Mr. Allen didn't give a single fact that wasn't fed to him," Harvath said. He pointed to leading questions from a detective and added, "in certain instances, multiple questions were used before Mr. Allen would admit to a certain detail that it was clear the detective interviewing him was trying to get out of him."
If no appeal is made by the Missouri Attorney General's office or a decision to retry Allen in St. Louis City within ten days, Allen will be released from prison.
His mother is eagerly awaiting that news. She says the Innocence Project is arranging counseling help and social workers to make Allen's transition to life on the outside easier and to help him manage his mental illness.
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