Two Missouri Congressmen have joined the effort to free a University City man convicted in the rape and murder of a woman nearly three decades ago.
Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) have written a letter to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, asking him to consider freeing George Allen Jr. Allen is serving a 95-year prison sentence for the 1982 rape and murder of 31-year-old Mary Bell in her apartment in LaSalle Park in St. Louis. He has served 29 years.
The congressmen cite new DNA evidence and a coached confession in their defense of Allen.
“We feel that it is important that you personally take a very careful look at this case,” the Congressmen write in their letter to Koster. “We want to make sure that you are aware of the importance of this matter to the local community, and the implications of this case for broader concerns of public safety and justice.”
In September, lawyers with The Innocence Project and the Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis filed a petition with the Cole County Circuit Court asking that Allen's conviction be overturned and he be set free from prison.
According to a news release from Congressman Clay's office, the Attorney General’s office has promised to make a decision by November 30.
”I hope that the Attorney General will make a quick decision, and come to the only conclusion possible: that Mr. Allen is actually innocent of this crime. Further, I am hopeful that he will release Mr. Allen speedily and get him home in time for the holidays,” said Congressman Clay.
Allen's first trial ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal. In a second trial, he was convicted of capital murder, rape, sodomy and burglary.
According to the petition filed by lawyers working on Allen's behalf, a month after Bell's murder, police picked up Allen near her neighborhood thinking he was their suspect in the case. Although police eventually realized their mistake, they interrogated Allen anyway, and he ended up making a recorded confession.
At trial, Allen’s mother, sister and his sister’s boyfriend all testified that Allen was at home at his mother's house in University City - some 10 miles away - at the time of Bell's murder. Allen's attorney said there was no way Allen would have been able to get to Bell's home, as approximately 20 inches of snow fell on St. Louis in that time period, in what came to be known as the "Big Snow" of 1982.
The witnesses testified that early in the morning on February 4, 1982, Allen helped to push his sister’s car out of the snow and never left the house after that.
The petition also stated that DNA evidence could now prove that semen attributed to Allen at his trial did not come from Allen. Allen’s DNA was not found on any of the remaining crime evidence. However, testing did uncover an unidentified male DNA profile on a towel in which the murder weapon was wrapped. DNA testing excluded Allen.
"The presence of a semen sample excluding Allen and matching someone other than the victim’s consensual sex partners is strong proof that someone other than Allen committed the crime," states the petition.
Attorneys also said police and prosecutors influenced the testimony of a critical prosecution witness, who was called to corroborate a small but significant detail from Allen’s confession.
The witness now admits to undergoing hypnosis to help her remember events of the night. The petition states that the highly suggestive practice to get the witness to “remember” was never disclosed to the prosecution or the defense.
Lawyers also noted that Allen is profoundly 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.
For the past 8 years, the Circuit Attorney's office has been working with the Innocence Project to investigate questions regarding Allen's conviction.
We understand that the Innocence Project believes that Mr. Allen was wrongfully convicted. We also understand that the original prosecutor and police investigators are strongly convinced of Mr. Allen’s guilt.
After thorough review of this case, we and the original prosecutor believe the DNA and other evidence neither confirms nor refutes the jury verdict in this matter.