George Allen Jr. left a courthouse in Jefferson County, Missouri a free man on Wednesday after spending thirty years in jail for crimes he didn’t commit.
To saw that it was a hard fought, gut-wrenching journey hardly describes the ordeal of the past thirty years.
Upon finally regaining his freedom, Allen expressed relief and hope that was never lost.
“I have spent 30 years in prison as an innocent man, and those have been difficult years for me and my family, but I never gave up hope,” Allen said. “I knew that some day the truth would come out. … Thank God this nightmare is finally ending.”
Allen’s 1992 rape and murder conviction was overturned on November 2, 2012 by Judge Daniel Green. The ruling was based on the failure of police to disclose several pieces of evidence that pointed to Allen’s innocence. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney stated last week that she will not retry Allen. However, Attorney General Chris Koster filed a meritless appeal to a state intermediate appeals court.
Koster’s move has been heavily criticized, including from Missouri politicians. Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO) sent a letter to Koster criticizing his decision to delay justice for Allen. In his letter, Clay notes the overwhelming evidence pointing to Allen’s innocence and expresses his disturbance with “serious misconduct on the part of the St. Louis Police Department.”
Allen was initially arrested after being mistaken for another suspect. However, rather than releasing him, detectives in the St. Louis Police Department decided to interrogate Allen anyway. A diagnosed schizophrenic, he had been to psychiatric wards multiple times and ended up giving a confession that one of the detectives has since admitted was questionable. In fact,
On the recording of the interrogation, Allen informs the officers that he is under the influence of alcohol, and throughout the interrogation an officer prompts Allen to give him answers to fit the crime, often asking Allen to change his answer to do so.
Chillingly, Allen narrowly escaped receiving a death penalty sentence in the case. That fact presents a chilling reminder that, though justice in his case came thirty years too late, at least there was that opportunity for DNA evidence to overturn his conviction. Otherwise, Allen and the truth behind his case would have been lost.
Concerns remain about old cases in St. Louis that involved the Detective Herb Riley, the police officer who interrogated Allen, as well Joseph Crow, he lab analyst who did the serology testing in the case. “We have serious concerns that this case is not an outlier and that there are other innocent people who are incarcerated on possible misconduct,” said Olga Akselrod of the Innocence Project.
George Allen Jr. will, for the first time in thirty years, be home to spend the holidays with his eighty year-old mother. They have been to hell and back and finally this Thanksgiving have Allen’s freedom to celebrate.