Effort to Clear Two Dallas County Men Underway
The Innocence Project and the
Innocence Project of Texas
joined local counsel to file legal papers today urging a Dallas County court to overturn the murder convictions of Dennis Lee Allen and Stanley Orson Mozee based on prosecutorial misconduct and new DNA evidence pointing to their innocence.
Dallas Morning News
reported that the Dallas County District Attorney Office is reviewing the case in which former prosecutor Rick Jackson represented the state against Allen and Mozee, who were convicted in 2000 of the 1999 murder of Reverend Jesse Borns Jr., despite a lack of physical evidence connecting them to the crime. Borns was punched repeatedly and stabbed to death outside a store where he worked. According to the district attorney’s office, they have not yet talked to Jackson who is now retired from practicing law.
In addition to a lack of evidence linking Allen and Mozee to Borns’ body, there were no witnesses who could place them at the scene of the crime.
“There was none then, and there’s none now,” said Innocence Project Senior Attorney Nina Morrison, who represents Mozee.
The legal organizations performed DNA testing on a trove of physical evidence recovered from the scene, and none of the items matched to the two defendants. However, DNA from one or more persons that does not match the defendants or the victim was identified on several items including a hammer found next to the victim’s body and a hair underneath the victim’s fingernails, potentially from a close-range struggle in which the victim suffered numerous defensive wounds to his hands.
The two men were convicted based on testimony from jailhouse informants and an unrecorded confession from Mozee, who has a history of mental illness. Shortly after he confessed, Mozee recanted and said it was coerced.
The legal documents filed today focus on contents discovered in the prosecutor’s original file under the “open file” policy adopted by District Attorney Craig Watkins in 2008. Among the contents in Jackson’s file were letters from inmates demanding reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony, which they maintain was promised in return for their testimony. At the trial, they claimed to have heard Allen and Mozee admitting to the murder. These letters were never disclosed during the 2000 trial, and the two inmates have since told defense attorneys their initial testimony was false.
Gary Udashen, the Dallas attorney representing Allen, said to the
, he has a “high degree of confidence that the convictions are going to be set aside.”
“Whether or not it ultimately results in an actual innocence finding,” he said to the
, “I think a lot of that is going to depend upon what the DA’s office determines in their own independent investigation.”
reports that Udashen doubts the two men would be convicted today because the case depended so heavily on testimony from jailhouse informants.
According to Udashen, the investigation and trial occurred at a time “before people everywhere and particularly in Dallas County were skeptical of things in the criminal justice system. Today I don’t think hardly any jurors in Dallas County would put any weight on that. I think the day of the jailhouse snitch has passed.”
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