JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A 56-year-old, partially blind schizophrenic man who has been imprisoned for three decades could be freed in a hearing Wednesday, after a Missouri judge recently overturned his rape and murder convictions, lawyers said.
George Allen Jr. was sentenced to 95 years behind bars in the February 1982 death of 31-year-old Mary Bell, who was attacked and killed in her home during a blinding St. Louis snowstorm. A Cole County judge overturned that conviction Nov. 2 and ordered Allen’s release, ruling police had withheld evidence that raised questions about Allen’s guilt.
Alana Massie, a spokeswoman for the New York-based Innocence Project that has been representing Allen, said they expect him to be freed Wednesday pending the state’s appeal.
Allen was arrested about a month after Bell’s murder when police mistook him for a convicted sex offender and took him in for questioning. Police said he confessed, and they conducted lab tests they said could not exclude him as the source of the physical evidence found on the victim.
Police and lab documents that were not disclosed at trial show 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 said. The state disputed the test results and has filed an appeal.
Among those expected at Wednesday’s hearing in Jefferson City is 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.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce says she will not appeal the ruling. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office says it will appeal.
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