A Cole County Circuit Court judge’s decision soon will determine whether a University City man will walk away from prison a free man or continue serving a life sentence for a 1982 rape and murder.
Attorneys from the Innocence Project and St. Louis-based Bryan Cave law firm argued in court in May 18 that George Allen Jr. should be set free due to new evidence and testimony. Five years of work may pay off soon for Allen, his family and the attorneys.
Judge Daniel Green has instructed attorneys representing Allen and the state Attorney General’s Office to submit a list of all the facts they stipulate are true.
“Once we submit that document, the judge said he will try to render a decision as soon as possible,” said Daniel Harvath, one of two Bryan Cave attorneys who have volunteered to represent Allen.
He said attorneys hope to have the stipulation of facts submitted to Green within two weeks.
Attorneys have been working for several years to prove that Allen, 57, is not guilty of the 1982 rape and murder of Mary Bell. He was convicted of the crime in 1983, and has served more than half his life in prison.
Harvath said Green could find Allen innocent of the charges, or he invoke a Brady violation in which he finds favorable evidence was not released.
"As long as he gets to walk out a free man, I don't care which ruling we receive," the Bryan Cave attorney said.
Harvath said he was encouraged that prosecutors did not challenge any of the new or suppressed evidence turned up in a five-year investigation into Allen’s case.
“After about a year of investigating, I started to believe he was innocent,” said Daniel Harvath. “Every fact we uncovered in the past five years has continued to point to his innocence.”
Attorneys argued that some findings in serology tests were not included in the final studies presented by the prosecution and were not available to the defense.
DNA testing was not as advanced in 1982, but tests on the semen on Bell’s bathrobe indicated the blood type did not match Allen, Bell or Bell’s boyfriend. Additionally, fingerprints on a windowsill near Bell’s body were not presented as evidence.
Allen’s confession was called into question, as even St. Louis detectives who worked on the case said they were skeptical of his guilt.
“There is also new exculpatory DNA results and powerful evidence that an over zealous detective fed Mr. Allen facts that led to a false confession,” Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the New York-based Innocence Project, said in a news release.
“The volume of exculpatory evidence that was withheld and false testimony that was given at his trial is staggering,” said Ameer Gado, also counsel at Bryan Cave. “While Mr. Allen shouldn’t have to serve another day in prison, we are at least hopeful that the court will quickly recognize the injustice that has been done here and reverse Mr. Allen’s conviction.”
Harvath said he looks forward to seeing Allen walk away a free man.
“It’s important that he gets to walk down the street a free man. It’s what our entire Constitution is based on,” Harvath said. “It’s horrendous to think that he’s been locked up for 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit.”