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Family of Wrongfully Convicted Missouri Prisoner Receives $14 Million

by Kevin Bliss

The family of former Missouri prisoner George Allen received a $14 million settlement in a wrongful conviction suit filed against the state, the City of St. Louis and others responsible for his illegal imprisonment.

Mary Bell was raped and murdered in her LaSalle apartment in 1982. Police focused on Kirk Eaton, a known sex offender, as a possible suspect. George Allen was picked up several weeks later because he was walking through the neighborhood and resembled Eaton. According to the complaint, it was readily apparent that Allen was mentally ill and that police officials, including Terry James and Mark Burford, “saw an opportunity to close what had become an emotionally charged case.”

The complaint alleged that Allen’s confession was coerced and crucial forensic evidence was withheld. It added that Allen was fed information by James and Burford about the crime scene that only the perpetrator would know; the officers then had Allen repeat that information in his taped confession to make it appear he was guilty. They also suppressed semen found at the crime scene because it did not match Allen’s blood type.

Allen was convicted and spent 30 years in prison while asserting his innocence. He submitted his case to the Innocence Project in 2010, and after three years of litigation and a retrial, the charges were dropped. [See: PLN, Dec. 2011, p.14].

Allen was released in 2013 and died three years later.

Bryan Cave, LLP and the law offices of Neufeld, Scheck and Brustin, LLP filed suit on behalf of Allen’s mother, Lonzetta Taylor, and his sister, Elfrieda Allen, claiming that the St. Louis Police Department had a pattern of unconstitutional conduct. They sued for malicious prosecution, false arrest, deprivation of familial association and loss of liberty.

In December 2017, the State of Missouri and City of St. Louis signed a non-admission clause and agreed to a settlement of $14 million to be paid over a three-year period. The agreement was finalized and the case dismissed in February 2018. See: Allen v. Gray, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mo.), Case No. 4:14-cv-01398-RWS. 

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Related legal case

Allen v. Gray