The second murder trial for the man accused of being the getaway driver in a 2009 shooting that killed four Lakewood police officers was declared a mistrial Thursday.
A Pierce County jury had been deliberating for more than a week over whether Dorcus Allen, 51, was guilty of four counts of first-degree murder for driving his friend and employer, Maurice Clemmons, to and from a coffee shop in Parkland where Clemmons gunned down police officers. It appears that they were not able to reach a decision.
A Pierce County government spokesperson confirmed that a mistrial was declared due to a hung jury.
Allen will now face another trial. Presiding Judge Edmund Murphy set a date for Jan. 9. Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson Adam Faber said he’s confident the trial will start then.
In phone calls with The News Tribune, attorneys for the prosecution and defense said the outcome of the trial was disappointing, but that they respected the jury’s conclusion and commended them for taking their time while deliberating. Both sides said they would be ready for a retrial in the new year.
Deputy prosecuting attorney James Schacht said that coming out of closing arguments, he felt confident the jury would return with a guilty verdict. He said he stood by his closing statements.
Peter Mazzone, one of Allen’s defense attorneys, said he and his co-counsel Mary High would make some adjustments for the new trial. He said he thought they might need to more emphatically point out what he said was “a complete dearth of evidence on the part of the state.”
The defendant was first convicted in 2011 of being the getaway driver and was sentenced to 420 years in prison. But in 2015, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that he did not receive a fair trial. A deputy prosecutor committed misconduct during closing arguments by repeatedly saying Allen “should have known” that Clemmons intended to kill the officers. That was a misstatement of the law, the high court ruled, and the case was sent back to Pierce County Superior Court for a new trial.
That new trial got underway Oct. 3, and over the course of four weeks, prosecutors used a variety of evidence to convince jurors that the defendant was in on a plan with Clemmons to kill random police officers, which resulted in the shooting deaths of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Gregory Richards and Ronald Owens.
Attorneys presented cell phone records of calls between Allen and Clemmons and a GPS device found in Allen’s garage that Clemmons used in an earlier, failed plot to draw cops to his home.
During closing arguments, Schacht also pointed to inconsistencies between Allen’s statements to police and his testimony on the stand, as well as the testimony of one of Clemmons’ relatives regarding a Thanksgiving dinner both Allen and Clemmons attended as evidence that the defendant knew of the plan and took steps to conceal his involvement.
Allen’s defense attorneys argued that prosecutors were relying on suspicions and innuendo to convince jurors to infer that the defendant is guilty.
Records of phone calls between Allen and Clemmons didn’t contain the actual conversations between the men, and defense attorney Mary High pointed out that the calls were made on work phones, theorizing that they could have been discussing whether any work was available for Clemmons’ landscaping business.
Lakewood Police Chief Mike Zaro issued a statement regarding the mistrial, saying the evidence is undisputed that Allen drove Clemmons to the scene, waited while he killed the officers, drove him away, then checked into a motel under a fake name.
“I am deeply disappointed that the jury could not agree on a verdict, resulting in a mistrial and the scheduling of another trial. The evidence is undisputed that Darcus Allen heard Maurice Clemmons talking about his intent to murder police officers in the days leading up to Nov. 29, 2009,” Zaro said. “Despite all these undisputed facts, this jury could not reach a decision and there will be yet another delay in achieving closure for our department and the families of our four officers.
“In the meantime we will do what we’ve always done: Move forward with dignity and honor. Our officers were brutally murdered, and we continue to be strong for the families of our Fallen Four and for those in our department who continue to mourn their tragic deaths. They will not be forgotten.”
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