On October 12, 2006, Allen Coco was exonerated after postconviction DNA testing proved that he was not the perpetrator of the 1995 rape and burglary for which he served 9 years. His conviction was overturned, the charges dropped, and he was finally released.
In the early morning hours of May 26, 1995, a man standing over her bed woke the victim. He grabbed her and put a knife to her throat. He then raped her anally and vaginally. During the rape, the victim struggled with the assailant and was able to get hold of a knife. When she stabbed him in the buttocks, he jumped out of the window.
The police showed the victim a series of photographic lineups. On June 20, 1995, she identified Allen Coco from the second lineup that she was shown.
There were several discrepancies between Coco's appearance and the victim's initial description. The victim described the perpetrator as wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. She did not describe any tattoos. Coco has large tattoos on both of his arms, including a 3½ inch tattoo of his own name. Coco also did not have a stab wound on his buttocks.
The Biological Evidence
On the way out of the window, the perpetrator got stuck in the mini-blinds. As a result, there was blood on the blinds and floor because the victim cut the man. The Southwest Louisiana Regional Crime Laboratory performed serology testing on the blood stains from the floor. Coco had the same blood type as the stains, occurring in only 5.8 percent of all African Americans. The serology testing consumed the stains.
Allen Coco testified on his own behalf at trial, asserting his innocence. The victim's identification and the serology evidence were the only evidence presented against him by the state. He was convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated burglary in a bench trial on November 7, 1997, and subsequently sentenced to life in prison without probation or parole.
In 2003, the Innocence Project New Orleans took on Coco's case. They were able to secure an order for DNA testing in 2005. The knife and swabs were submitted to ReliaGene and, in March 2006, test results proved that Coco could not have been the perpetrator of this crime. The State demanded re-testing at its own laboratory and those results confirmed ReliaGene’s findings. In July 2006, Coco's conviction was vacated and the judge ordered a new trial.
On October 12, 2006, after performing further tests to test the veracity of Coco's blood samples that the State had taken, the district attorney decided to drop the charges against him and Coco was released after more than 11 years in custody, including nine years of this sentence.
Sadly, Coco died a short time after his release.