After 30 years in prison, freedom must have seemed close for George Allen and his family.
Allen, of University City, had his murder conviction overturned by a Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green on Friday. His attorneys made a very strong case, not only that he did not receive a fair trial due to withheld evidence, but that Allen is innocent.
However, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office announced it will appeal the trial court’s decision in the George Allen case.
One of Allen's attorneys, Daniel Harvath of the Bryan Cave law firm, said the appeal could mean Allen is in jail for several more months.
"We were in a situation where we thought George would be home with his family for Thanksgiving and Christmas," Harvath said. "Now, that's uncertain."
He said attorneys filed a motion Thursday to have Allen released on bond pending the appeal's outcome (see accompanying file).
Attorney General Chris Koster’s office released the following statement Thursday:
As this office has stated previously in similar situations, the appellate process provides a system of checks and balances on our state’s trial court decisions. We believe the facts and circumstances of the case and the trial court’s findings should be examined by the appellate court as part of the normal safeguarding process.
We will defer to the Western District Court of Appeals’ decision in this matter, and if the court determines the judge’s ruling is correct, we will not pursue further action.
On Wednesday, City of St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced she would not seek to re-try George Allen for the 1982 rape and murder of Mary Bell in her LaSalle Park home.
Harvath said the Attorney General's appeal was disappointing.
"It is unexpected in light of what we perceive as a very strong case based on facts that were stipulated to (by prosecutors)," he said. "We want to avoid going through the full appellate process."
Judge overturned conviction
The overturned ruling stopped short of exonerating Allen of the crimes. In his decision overturning the conviction, Judge Green wrote that police investigators ignored or hid evidence that may have exonerated Allen.
Allen’s attorneys brought up evidence that indicated another person may have committed the crime, including the rapist's blood type and a fingerprint on a windowsill near the body. Neither piece of evidence matched Allen or Bell’s boyfriend.
Green ordered Allen released by Nov. 12 unless prosecutors wished to re-try him.
Joyce wrote: “It is important to note that Judge Green’s ruling does not make a finding that Mr. Allen is innocent of the crimes with which he was charged. Judge Green’s ruling does not exonerate Mr. Allen, however, the failure of police to follow protocol during the initial investigation and trial is the reason Mr. Allen will be released.”
Joyce said that retrying the case would be impossible since the only witness to the taped confession, Det. Herb Riley, died in 1996.
Allen’s confession to the crimes was key to his conviction. However, his attorneys noted that Allen is mentally ill and a diagnosed schizophrenic.
"People with mental illness, such as Mr. Allen, are particularly vulnerable to making a false confession,” said Ameer Gado, one of Allen’s attorneys with Bryan Cave, when attorneys were seeking his release.
“The goal of the Circuit Attorney’s Office is to ensure justice is sought under the laws of the State of Missouri,” Joyce said in a news release.
For more information on the George Allen case, see the following articles:
- Wrongfully Convicted U City Man to Be Freed After 30 Years
- U City Man Could Walk Away from Life Sentence
- Attorneys Say Uncovered Evidence Shows U City Man is Innocent of 1982 Murder
- Two Congressmen Join Effort to Free U City Man Serving Life