Billy Frederick Allen was incarcerated for 25 + years in a Texas prison. The Court of Appeals decided to overturn his convictions three years ago. In Texas, the legislature passed a law that compensates unjustly incarcerated people. In this case, however, Mr. Allen got nothing for his time. Allen’s current attorneys are apoplectic.
The dispute over compensation stems from the following facts. Mr. Allen’s criminal defense attorney was clearly ineffective. The attorney failed to present to the jury some evidence that would have made it very difficult for them to find Mr. Allen guilty. The Court of Appeals found that the evidence against Mr. Allen was so weak, that any competent attorney defending him would have won his case.
Allen was found guilty of the murders of James Perry Sewell and Sewell’s girlfriend, Raven Dannelle Lashbrook. The couple was found murdered in an apartment building. Mr. Allen’s fingerprints were found on the top of Mr. Sewell’s car which was parked nearby. During the trial, police testified that the dying victim said that Billy Allen was the killer. However, as it turns out, a paramedic who was nearby heard Billy Wayne Allen, not Billy Frederick Allen, along with two other names. As luck, or bad luck, would have it, two suspects shared the same first and last names. The devil is in the details.
And now, Texas is saying that Billy Frederick Allen is not entitled to compensation. The court has found that no reasonable jury would convict if they had all the facts. But in the instant case, there is no proof of innocence. There is no DNA evidence that proves that the defendant is not the guilty party. All we have here is an investigation that was fatally flawed, coupled with an ineffective defense. Because Mr. Allen can’t prove his innocence, he gets nothing.
It worries me that the state can lock somewhat up for 25 years, admit that they didn’t have the evidence to do so, and reject any civil responsibility. I do believe that prosecutors and police should have it in the backs of their minds that incompetent prosecution can have a financial impact on the State. Without such liability, prosecuting attorneys have no financial check or balance. In the Allen case, a slightly more diligent prosecutor may have actually looked at the case from a different perspective and done the right thing.
Posted by Attorney Nick Alcock
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