JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A 56-year-old, partially blind schizophrenic man whose 1983 rape and murder convictions were recently thrown out by a Missouri judge was released from prison on Wednesday.
George Allen Jr. was sentenced to 95 years behind bars in the February 1982 death of 31-year-old Mary Bell, who was attacked in her home during a blinding St. Louis snowstorm. A Cole County judge overturned that conviction Nov. 2 and ordered Allen’s release after ruling police had withheld evidence that raised questions about his guilt.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce subsequently said she won’t retry Allen, but Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is appealing Circuit Judge Dan Green’s ruling. Allen’s appeal was picked up in 2010 by lawyers with the New York-based Innocence Project.
Allen was arrested about a month after Bell’s attack when police mistook him for a convicted sex offender and took him in for questioning. Police said he confessed, and lab tests done then could not exclude him as the source of the physical evidence found on the victim.
Police and lab documents undisclosed at trial showed police found semen samples from two different men on the victim’s robe, and more advanced DNA technology enabled Allen’s lawyers to press his case. Those tests ruled out Allen as the source of semen found on Bell’s robe, his lawyers allege, though the state is disputing the test results.
A number of people in Allen's support crew attended Wednesday’s hearing in Jefferson City, including Allen’s 80-year-old mother, Lonzetta Taylor, with whom he lived in University City, about 10 miles from Bell’s home.
Allen’s supporters said it would have been impossible for him to walk 10 miles in the snow to a stranger’s home, then rape and kill her. Taylor said her son was at home when Bell was killed. Allen’s original trial ended in a hung jury. He was convicted in a second trial in 1983.
The Innocence Project also 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.