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Lawyers seek release in overturned murder case

Lawyers seek release in overturned murder case

November 14th, 2012 in News

This undated photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows inmate George Allen Jr., of St. Louis.

Photo by The Associated Press /News Tribune.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Attorneys for a schizophrenic Missouri man say he could be released from prison after nearly 30 years Wednesday, following a judge's decision to overturn his conviction in a 1982 rape and murder.

George Allen Jr. was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to 95 years in prison in the death of Mary Bell, 31. Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green overturned those convictions Nov. 2, citing recent DNA tests that ruled out Allen as the source of semen found on Bell's robe.

Attorneys for Allen, who is now 56, said Tuesday they expect Green to release him from custody after a Wednesday hearing, even as Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster challenges the ruling to the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals.

"It's rewarding to get to this point," said Ameer Gado of the St. Louis law firm Bryan Cave, which assisted the New York-based Innocence Project in Allen's defense. "But we're not going to stop fighting."

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has said she won't retry Allen, citing "the failure of police to follow protocol during the initial investigation and trial," not the new DNA results. A Koster spokeswoman said the Attorney General's Office also expects Allen to be released pending the state's appeal.

The Innocence Project took up Allen's case in 2010, citing several concerns, including allegations that police coached Allen into confessing. The group 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.

Bell was raped and killed inside her St. Louis home during a snowstorm on Feb. 4, 1982. Allen, 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 said DNA testing unavailable at the time of the crime has since excluded Allen as the perpetrator, and said there was no fingerprint evidence pointing to Allen.

His supporters also 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, who is expected to be at Wednesday's hearing, said he was home with her the night Bell was killed.