After spending almost 30 years in prison for the rape and murder of Mary Bell, George Allen was set free Wednesday.
Technically, he has not been declared innocent. Instead, Cole County Judge Daniel Green voided Allen’s convictions for murder, rape, sodomy and first-degree burglary because St. Louis police failed to disclose important evidence to the prosecution that was favorable to Allen. The prosecution would have had to share that evidence with the defense.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce had the opportunity to refile the charges, but she opted not to, citing the fact that two key witnesses had died. One of them was Herb Riley, the homicide sergeant who took Allen’s confession.
But technicalities aside, Allen and his supporters feel he has been exonerated. I would not argue with them. And if we accept their argument that he was wrongly convicted, we’re left with a question — how did it happen?
"Pennsylvania should lose the death penalty," is Anne McGraw Reeves' column for the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
When it comes to Pennsylvania’s cruel and bogus capital punishment law, we need to use it or lose it.
I say we lose it. Soon.
The recent last-minute stay of execution for convicted murderer Hubert Michael clearly illustrates the ridiculousness of the system we use to punish the state’s worst criminals.
Pennsylvania has not executed a single person in 13 years. More than 200 people sit on death row, dying from illness or old age rather than their sentence.
The death penalty drives up costs for taxpayers in legal fees, housing and execution preparation. Morally, it’s reprehensible and discriminatory. And crime statistics easily debunk arguments that the death penalty deters murder, rape, kidnapping and other heinous acts.
But the worst aspect of our death penalty centers not on guilt, but on innocence. The current system heaps further suffering on the family and friends of the victim. The law that is supposed to bring closure and comfort torments them instead, conjuring up painful memories and emotions every time a death warrant is signed.