A disturbing case out of Texas once again puts the spotlight on Open Records policies and how critical they are to justice. The case also highlights the perils of allowing jailhouse informants’ words to replace solid evidence. Dennis Lee Allen’s and Stanley Orson Mozee’s murder convictions were overturned last week after the two served 15 years in prison. They were convicted of the 1999 murder of Rev. Jesse Borns, Jr. The convictions were based on Mozee’s unrecorded – and immediately recanted – confession (he claims he was pressured to confess) and the word of two jailhouse informants. No DNA since tested ties either man to the murder.
As Nancy Petro writes on the Wrongful Convictions Blog:
“Law enforcement and prosecutors who have not yet fully supported the practice and spirit of open records should follow the lead of Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins and others. Providing transparency places them on the side of both truth and history.”
Amen to that.
Dallas County (TX) District Judge Mark Stoltz issued findings of fact and conclusions of law last week before recommending that the murder convictions of Dennis Lee Allen and Stanley Orson Mozee be overturned. The two men were subsequently released after each had served 15 years in prison. The judge’s findings will now go before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review. ABC News WFAA 8 reported (here) that the two are expected to be exonerated.
Allen and Mozee were convicted of the 1999 murder of Reverend Jesse Borns Jr., who was found stabbed outside his workplace, a retail store. No physical evidence linked the men to the crime. The conviction was won on the unrecorded confession of Mozee — who immediately recanted and claimed he was coerced into signing the police-written statement — and the testimony of two jailhouse informants. The informants denied under oath at trial…
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