MAY 10, 2019
On May 10, 2019, Dennis Lee Allen was fully exonerated and formally declared “actually innocent” in Dallas, Texas by Judge Raquel Jones, after being wrongfully convicted of murder in 2000.
The decision was based on new DNA testing that excluded him from key evidence at the crime scene. Allen was represented by IPTX former Board President Gary Udashen. Another defendant in the case, Stanley Mozee was represented by IPNY. Both organizations showed their findings that these two individuals’ joint convictions were rooted in unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, a false confession, and substantial prosecutorial misconduct. Allen and Mozee had maintained their innocence for two decades, and spent 15 years of their life in prison.
Both men had been convicted of murdering Rev. Jesse Borns, Jr. a store owner and lay minister who was found murdered in his place of business in April 1999. There was no physical evidence linking either Mozee or Allen to the crime scene, yet both were convicted and sentenced to life 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.
Gary Udashen, of IPTX 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.
In the years since Allen and Mozee were wrongfully convicted, 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.
“If there was ever a case that warranted my office to take appropriate action to try to right these wrongs, the wrongful conviction of Allen and Mozee is it,” said Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot.