Stanley Mozee and Dennis Allen Declared “Actually Innocent” After 15 Years in Prison
05.10.19 By Innocence Staff
Texans found factually innocent and exonerated based on DNA testing
(Dallas, TX – May 10, 2019) Today, two men who were wrongfully convicted of murder in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison were fully exonerated and formally declared “actually innocent” by Judge Raquel Jones, who granted a motion by Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot to dismiss all charges against both men. The decision was based on evidence that Stanley Mozee and Dennis Lee Allen were factually innocent based on new DNA testing which excluded them from key evidence at the crime scene, as well as findings that their joint convictions were rooted in unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, a false confession and substantial prosecutorial misconduct. Mozee and Allen had maintained their innocence for two decades.
Mozee and Allen were wrongfully convicted of murdering Rev. Jesse Borns, Jr., a store owner and lay minister, who was found stabbed to death in his place of business in April 1999. There was no physical evidence linking Mozee or Allen to the crime scene, yet they were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2000.
Due to egregious misconduct by the trial prosecutor, these two innocent men spent 15 years of their lives in prison.
Both men had been incarcerated for 15 years for Borns’ murder until a Dallas County district court released them in 2014 based on new information uncovered through a joint re-investigation conducted by the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. The re-investigation continued for four years, and ultimately turned up substantial additional evidence proving the two men’s innocence. Much of that evidence was in the trial prosecutor’s own files, but was hidden from the defense until the district attorney’s office adopted an “open file” policy years after Mozee and Allen’s trials.
In 2018, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the lead trial prosecutor, Rick Jackson, withheld numerous items of exculpatory evidence at the trials, violating Mozee and Allen’s rights to a fair judicial process. Today, the district attorney’s office announced that it had decided to dismiss all charges against both men based on “actual innocence.”
“Due to egregious misconduct by the trial prosecutor, these two innocent men spent 15 years of their lives in prison,” said Nina Morrison, senior attorney at the Innocence Project.
“Today, the Innocence Project is thrilled to have an official declaration of what these two men have always known: that they are innocent. We are extremely grateful to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office for its commitment to pursuing justice and the truth in this case.”
Gary Udashen, president of the Board of the Innocence Project of Texas, noted that these exonerations would not have been possible had the district attorney’s office not opened its trial files and investigated the defendants’ innocence. “This case stands as a model for prosecutors and courts who are committed to promoting policies that will mitigate prosecutorial misconduct and offer a clearer path to freeing the innocent,” said Udashen.
Read the detailed findings entered by District Judge Everett Young in 2017 established that former Assistant D.A. Jackson (who was discharged from the Dallas D.A.’s Office in 2006) knowingly presented false testimony at the trial.
He failed to disclose the benefits and agreements that were exchanged between the state and at least four informant witnesses—all of whom had pending criminal charges or convictions—who falsely implicated Mozee and Allen in the murder case. Both former ADA Jackson and lead detective Rick Berry also failed to disclose favorable eyewitness evidence that pointed to the two men’s innocence.
In 2013, former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson was permanently disbarred for suppressing exculpatory evidence that contributed to the wrongful conviction of Innocence Project client Michael Morton, who served 25 years of a life sentence; Anderson was also ordered to serve nine days in jail as part of a separate criminal prosecution. In 2016, former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta was stripped of his law license based on findings that he committed “egregious” misconduct in the prosecution of Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years on Texas’s death row for a murder he did not commit. In response to the Morton and Graves cases, in 2013, the Texas Legislature extended the time to file grievances against prosecutors whose misconduct is alleged to have caused a wrongful conviction.
Justice is slow sometimes, but today is a great day.
In the years since Allen and Mozee were wrongfully convicted, the Innocence Project and the Innocence Project of Texas (“IPTX”) helped get legislation passed in Texas to prevent the types of injustices that both men have suffered. The Innocence Project and IPTX supported the passage of the 2017 Texas House Bill 34, which requires that prosecutors keep thorough records of their use of jailhouse informants.
Notably, four separate elected district attorneys in Dallas County–the Hons. Craig Watkins, Susan Hawk, Faith Johnson, and John Cruezot–handled the case at various stages and empowered their conviction integrity units to work with the Innocence Project and Innocence Project of Texas on a comprehensive reinvestigation. Each of these elected DA’s agreed in court papers that Mozee and Allen were wrongly convicted, with District Attorney Cruezot ultimately declaring in today’s hearing that Mozee and Allen met the demanding legal test under Texas law for “actual innocence.”
Today’s ruling formally exonerates both Mozee and Allen by dismissing the indictments against them and makes them eligible for financial compensation under Texas Law.
“If there was ever a case that warranted my office to take appropriate action to try to right these wrongs, the wrongful conviction of Mozee and Allen is it,” said Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot.
“Justice is slow sometimes, but today is a great day,” Creuzot added.
Mozee was represented by Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project, affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, and Ezekiel Tyson, Jr., of Dallas. Allen was represented by Gary Udashen and Bruce Anton of the Innocence Project of Texas. Both organizations worked on this case for over a decade before today’s exoneration.
2015: Mozee and Allen free on bond