Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Ryan Allen

Other Washington State Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Thurston_County.jpg
In the early morning hours of December 21, 2007, a Thurston County, Washington sheriff’s deputy went to a mobile home to investigate a complaint of loud music. Thirty-year-old Ryan Allen came to the door carrying an assault rifle. He quickly turned it over at the deputy’s request and disclosed that he had another rifle inside.

When the deputy ran a background check on Allen, he discovered that Allen had a felony burglary conviction in 1994 when he was a juvenile. The deputy arrested Allen and he was charged with two counts of illegal possession of a firearm.

Allen was released on bond pending trial. However, in February 2008, he was charged with bail jumping for failing to appear in court after he failed to submit to a urinalysis as scheduled.

At his trial in Thurston County Superior Court, Allen presented evidence that in 2006, his assault rifle had been confiscated temporarily by police following an incident in which his girlfriend was threatening to kill herself with it. Police returned his gun to him without any indication that he could not legally possess it.

The prosecution presented records of his conviction as a juvenile and argued that state law prohibited possession of a firearm after a felony conviction.

On April 3, 2008, a jury convicted Allen of both weapons charges and the bail jumping charge. He was sentenced to 2½ years in prison.

In August 2009, the Washington Court of Appeals upheld his weapons convictions, but the bail jumping conviction was set aside and dismissed because Allen had not been given proper notice to appear. He was released from prison in September 2009.

Allen then sought help from attorney Harry Williams IV because he believed that he had never been informed in juvenile court that he was prohibited from possessing a firearm. Williams filed a petition challenging Allen’s conviction. In 2012, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that Allen had never been informed in any fashion—verbally or in writing—that he was prohibited from possessing firearms.

The appeals court noted that Allen was misled during the juvenile court proceedings to believe that as long as he remained arrest-free until he was 23, he could then legally possess firearms. “The (juvenile court) documents clearly show that the court thoroughly advised Allen of other prohibitions and restrictions but that it omitted the firearm prohibition,” the court declared.

The appeals court vacated Allen’s convictions and ordered the charges dismissed.

Allen later filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state of Washington. In February 2014, Allen was awarded $85,616 in compensation and Williams was awarded $8,576 in legal fees.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 7/31/2017
State:Washington
County:Thurston
Most Serious Crime:Gun Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2008
Exonerated:2012
Sentence:2 1/2 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:30
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No