Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has reneged on the state’s agreement to pay half of the $13,825,000 settlement in December 2017, of George Allen Jr.’s federal civil rights lawsuit for his almost 30 years of wrongful imprisonment. Allen filed his lawsuit in 2014 after his convictions were overturned for a murder and rape committed in St. Louis in 1982.
Allen was 27 when convicted in 1983 of capital murder, rape, sodomy and first-degree burglary in the death of 31-year-old Mary Bell in 1982 in St. Louis’ LaSalle Park neighborhood. Allen was arrested six weeks after Bell’s murder while walking in the neighborhood. He was questioned by police and gave a taped confession, that he later recanted as coerced by the police.
No physical, forensic, or eyewitness testimony linked Allen to the crime. The forensic evidence actually excluded him because his blood type didn’t match that of semen recovered from Bell.
After a jury voted 10-2 for Allen’s acquittal, he was retried three months later and the jury unanimously found him guilty. Allen was sentenced to 95 years in prison.
On November 2, 2012 Allen’s convictions were overturned by Cole County Judge Daniel Green on the basis the prosecution violated his right to due process by failing to disclose evidence to his trial lawyer that was favorable to his defense. Five days later, on November 7, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office issued a statement: “We have reviewed the facts and evidence concerning this matter in order to evaluate the viability of retrying Mr. Allen, and we have determined that a successful retrial of this case would be impossible.” However, the Circuit Attorney’s Office appealed Judge Green’s ruling vacating Allen’s convictions.
Allen was released on bond on November 14, 2012.
On December 26, 2012 the Missouri Court of appeals affirmed the vacating of Allen’s convictions.
The charges were dismissed against Allen on January 18, 2013.
On August 12, 2014 Allen filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that among its defendants named the City of St. Louis, a number of officials and officers affiliated with the St. Louis Police Department, and the State of Missouri. The police officer’s were represented by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, and St. Louis was represented by its own lawyers.
Allen was 60 when he was found dead in his bedroom in St. Louis on October 16, 2016. He died from natural causes.
Allen’s lawsuit continued under his estate that was administered by his sister Elfrieda and his mother Lonzetta Taylor.
On December 13, 2017 Allen’s sister and mother agreed to settle all the lawsuit’s claims for a total of $13,825,000. Missouri AG Hawley agreed that payment was to be shared equally between the state and the city. Under the agreement $5 million was to be paid in January 2018, with payments of $2 million annually thereafter until the full amount was paid.
The $5 million installment payment to Allen’s estate was made on January 5, 2018.
After agreeing on December 13 for the state to pay half, and the $5 million payment, AG Hawley changed his mind about the amount of the state was responsible to pay.
On February 9, 2018 Hawley filed a lawsuit in St. Louis City Circuit Court seeking declaratory relief to limit the state’s liability to payment of only $1 million of the $13.825 million settlement. The lawsuit asserts St. Louis is liable for the remaining $12.825 million. The lawsuit asserts the State Legal Expense Fund (LEF) puts a cap of $1 million annually to pay civil judgments against Missouri or any affiliated agents or agencies.
The state is also seeking return of $1.5 million of the $2.5 million the state’s LEF paid to Allen’s estate in January 2018. The other $2.5 million was paid by the City of St. Louis.
The lawsuit doesn’t dispute that under the settlement Allen’s estate is owed a total of $13.825 million: the state just doesn’t want to pay half.
AG Hawley’s reneging on the state’s agreement to pay half of the settlement has opened a can of worms. The lawsuit asserts that now the position of St. Louis is the state is liable for payment of the entire amount of the settlement — and the city isn’t responsible to pay Allen’s estate any money.
Click here to read the lawsuit in State of Missouri, ex rel. Attorney General Josh Hawley v. City of St. Louis, No. 1822-CC00298 (Circuit Ct of the City of St. Louis) (Petition for Declaratory Relief, filed 2-9-2018).
Hawley is running as a candidate for the Republican nomination in Missouri’s 2018 U.S. Senate election.
Endnote 1. The day before AG Hawley agreed on December 13, 2017 for the state to pay half, the state and St. Louis executed a side letter agreement stipulating that the parties may ““disagree about the respective responsibility of the City and the State Legal Expense Fund to pay for all or part of the settlement amounts” due under the Allen Settlement.” Hawley’s position is that letter supersedes his agreement the next day for the state to pay half.