ST. LOUIS -- The attorney for a Missouri man who spent nearly three decades in prison for a recently overturned rape and murder conviction is asking a judge to set him free on bail until an appeal is decided.
Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green last week overturned the conviction of George Allen Jr. Allen is 29 years into a 95-year sentence for killing a St. Louis woman in 1982.
On Wednesday, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced she would not re-try Allen, but Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed Green’s ruling to the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals, leaving Allen’s status in limbo.
Allen’s attorney, Olga Akselrod, said Thursday the appeal is without merit and unfairly keeps Allen behind bars. She is asking Green to free Allen.
“The attorney general is needlessly dragging out this litigation,” said Akselrod, an attorney for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that specializes in the use of DNA evidence to overturn wrongful convictions. “They are, in my opinion, filing a frivolous appeal that is just extending the pain that Mr. Allen and his mother have been suffering for 30 years.”
Koster’s office said in a statement that “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,” the statement read.
Mary Bell, 31, was raped and killed inside her St. Louis home on Feb. 4, 1982. Allen, now 56 and a diagnosed schizophrenic, was arrested about a month later when officers mistook him for a convicted sex offender and took him in for questioning. Police said he confessed, and lab tests done at the time could not exclude Allen as the source of semen found on the victim’s robe.
Allen’s first trial ended in a hung jury. He was convicted in a second trial in 1983 and sentenced to 95 years in prison.
The Innocence Project took up Allen’s case in 2010, citing several concerns, including allegations that police coached Allen into confessing. His supporters said it was unlikely Allen could make the 10-mile trip from his University City home to Bell’s home in the blinding snowstorm occurring that day. Allen’s mother said he was home with her the night Bell was killed.
The Innocence Project said DNA testing unavailable at the time of the crime has since excluded Allen as the source of the semen, and said there was no fingerprint evidence pointing to Allen. And the Innocence Project said it unearthed documents showing police had evidence that the attacker had a blood type inconsistent with Allen’s but failed to tell prosecutors or defense attorneys.
Joyce said in a statement that her office reviewed the case and determined that retrying it would be impossible, in part because the key evidence was a taped confession no longer available. The detective who taped the confession is no longer alive.
Joyce said Green’s ruling does not exonerate Allen, but “the failure of police to follow protocol during the initial investigation and trial is the reason Mr. Allen will be released.”