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Dennis Allen

Other Dallas CIU Exonerations
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In the early morning hours of April 7, 1999, the body of the Rev. Jesse Borns Jr. was found stabbed to death in the hallway of his business, J.B. Jezco Enterprises, located in a strip mall at 1642 Martin Luther King Boulevard, in Dallas, Texas. He was 70 years old and had been stabbed or cut nearly 50 times. A bloody ball peen hammer was found nearby.

Borns, who was sold leather goods, pagers, and wooden clocks and occasionally hosted seminars on money management, had been released from prison 1997 after serving 15 years of a 40-year sentence for fatally shooting a member of his former church. Borns, who had maintained the shooting was an accident, had received death threats after his release and he was $15,000 to $20,000 in debt. Although $250 was still in his wallet, his credit cards were missing.

Borns’s wife, Margie, told police that he called her around 5:30 p.m. the night before. He told her he was hosting a seminar at 8 p.m. and would not be home until later. He said he would not be coming to home to change out of his work clothes because he had a set of dress clothes in his van. She said she called the store around 8 p.m. to say goodnight but there was no answer. When she awoke at 3 a.m. and he was not home, she called a friend. The friend drove her to the store where they found the door unlocked, the lights on, and his body in the hallway.

Although the office was set up for the seminar, Borns was in work clothes, which he wore while remodeling the back rooms of the building in preparation for leasing them out to other businesses.

A canvass of the area turned up no eyewitnesses to the crime. However, witnesses reported seeing two men—one tall and one short—arguing with Borns around 6 p.m. on the day of the murder. Witnesses also reported that they had tried to sell apparently stolen pagers around 10 p.m.

The shorter of the two men was described as having a distinctive scar across the side of his neck. The taller man was described as having “deep wrinkles” on his face.

The crime went unsolved for weeks, even though Crimestoppers flyers were circulated and detectives learned that Borns’ stolen credit cards were used at several businesses on April 7, the day after the murder.

Video surveillance from an EZ Mart showed two men—one taller than the other—in the store at 1:38 a.m. when one of the cards was used. Alvin Degraftenreed, who told police he saw two men arguing with Borns outside his store, viewed the video and said they appeared to be the same men. Another witness viewed the video and identified the short man as Daniel Jennings. Other witnesses said the taller man was Darryl Adkins. Although a search warrant was executed at Adkins’s home, he and Jennings were eliminated as suspects.

In late June 1999, Dallas police detective Richard Berry, the lead investigator on the case, shifted his focus to 39-year-old Stanley Mozee and 36-year-old Dennis Allen, two homeless men who battled drug problems and performed odd jobs in the neighborhood.

Berry later testified that he had received tips from people on the street, although none of those tipsters was ever called to testify. However, on July 15, Berry wrote out an affidavit that was signed by Cynthia Sloan, a sex worker and drug addict, saying that she heard Mozee and Allen talk about committing the crime. She said Allen admitted that he was present while Mozee stabbed Borns and that they took “a little money bag,” although $250 was found in Borns’s wallet. She made no mention of the box of pagers and a cellular phone that was taken.

Detective Berry brought Allen and Mozee in for questioning. Allen denied involvement in the crime and was released. On three occasions, Berry interrogated Mozee, who had been diagnosed with mental disorders, including schizophrenia and depression. The final interrogation was on July 22, when Berry said that Mozee signed a confession admitting that he and Allen’s girlfriend, Felicia Shaw, acted as lookouts while Allen went into the store to rob Borns and wound up killing him.

Mozee and Allen were then arrested and charged with capital murder. Shaw was never charged or called as a witness. Both men were about the same height—six feet—and neither man had a scar on his neck or deep wrinkles on his face.

The men were tried separately. On July 31, 2000, Mozee went to trial in Dallas County Criminal District Court. The prosecution called Sloan, who testified that she had overheard Allen and Mozee talking about the crime.

Zane Smith testified that he was in jail when Mozee and Allen were in custody, and that they admitted committing the murder. Smith said Mozee told him that he was going to fake mental illness to disavow his confession. Under questioning by Dallas County assistant district attorney Rick Jackson, Smith denied that he ever sought favorable treatment, was offered favorable treatment, or received favorable treatment on his pending charges in return for his testimony.

Using the technology then available, the prosecution had microscopically examined and conducted DNA tests and fingerprint analyses on numerous items from the crime scene—including blood stains on the floor and molding near the victim’s body, and fingerprints throughout the store—but found no evidence linking Mozee or Allen to the scene. Both men were excluded as the source of all testable fingerprints recovered , including those from the display case out of which pagers had been taken. A hair fragment found under one of Borns’s fingernails and the bloody hammer were not tested.

Detective Berry testified that “all three store clerks” at three locations, including the EZ Mart, a Dollar Plaza, and Scotties Drive-in, had identified Allen as the man who attempted to use Borns’s stolen credit cards in the hours after the murder. None of the clerks was called as witnesses.

Berry also testified that Mozee was calm, lucid, and sober when he confessed. He denied threatening Mozee, although he said he informed Mozee that the case could potentially carry the death penalty.

Charles Manning, a homeless drug addict at the time of the crime who Borns allowed to sleep in the back of his store, testified that he knew that Mozee and Allen hung out together. Manning knew nothing about the crime.

Mozee testified and denied that he, Allen, and Shaw were involved. Mozee said he was intoxicated on both drugs and alcohol, had not slept, and had run out of his psychiatric medications prior to the final interrogation. He said Berry told him “somebody’s going to get the needle and it’s going to be you if you don’t come up with something.” Mozee said the details in the confession were fed to him by Berry. The confession differed from the version reported by Sloan. Mozee’s statement said he met with Allen and Shaw at 9:30 p.m. at a club a few minutes walking distance from Borns’s store—although the evidence suggested that Borns was killed prior to 8 p.m. The confession said Allen confronted Borns in his office where he stabbed Borns to death and dragged him into the hall—although no blood was found in the office and there were no signs a bloody body was dragged into the hall.

On August 2, 2000, the jury convicted Mozee of capital murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Allen went to trial a few weeks later. Sloan and Smith again testified that they heard him admit involvement in the crime.

Prosecutor Jackson also called Lonel Hardeman, who said that Allen had confessed to him his involvement in the crime. Like Smith, Hardeman also denied asking for, being promised, or receiving any leniency for his testimony. He said he was testifying to “bring a closure” for the Borns family.

John Robinson, another jail inmate, testified that Allen told him he committed the crime with a “dope-fiend and his girl,” and that the dope fiend “messed up” and “stabbed the dude.” Robinson claimed that Allen told him he threw the weapon used to stab Borns—"a letter opener or a tool”—on top of the Borns’s store or the store next door. Police had searched the roofs and found a steak knife on the roof of Borns’s store. There was no evidence linking it to the crime.

Samson Tinsaye, a clerk at the EZ Mart whom detective Perry said had identified Allen as one of two men, took the witness stand. When he saw Allen in court, however, he recanted his identification of the taller man as Allen. He said he was certain that Allen was not the man—Allen was shorter and had much darker skin.

Kenneth Jones, a clerk at a pager store, testified that on April 9, 1999, he purchased from a man a pager that, when activated, was identified as one of the pagers stolen from Borns’s store. Jones identified Allen in a photo array as the man who sold him the pager and he identified him in court. Prior to his testimony, Jones had been given probation for possession of five grams of cocaine even though he had a prior drug conviction.

Degraftenreed identified Allen as the taller of the two men who were arguing with Borns at 6 p.m. on the night Borns was killed. He said the shorter man was intoxicated and became agitated when Borns said he would consider giving him a job only if he cleaned himself up. Degraftrenreed said the confrontation was not physical and neither man threatened Borns.

Mozee’s testimony from his trial was read to the jury.

During closing argument, Allen’s defense lawyer, James Oatman declared, “In 18 years of practicing law, I’ve never said someone’s being railroaded. But I will tell you that today—an innocent man—I usually don’t talk about that. I talk about not guilty—burden of proof…In 18 years, I have never been more dissatisfied and disappointed that what has brought us to court today…I’ve fought as hard as I can for four days for this man. And when I sit down, I can’t fight any more for him. And I can tell you one thing. He is innocent.”

Prosecutor Jackson, as he did during Mozee’s trial, stressed during his closing argument how none of the witnesses had sought, been promised, or received any benefits for their testimony.

On September 1, 2000, the jury convicted Allen of capital murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Both men’s convictions were upheld on appeal.

In 2009, the Innocence Project, based in New York, and the Innocence Project of Texas began cooperating with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity unit. They began re-investigating the case, and sought DNA testimony on more than two dozen items of evidence.

Tests on a drop of blood near the front of the store showed a mixture of Borns’s blood and the blood of an unidentified person. Mozee and Allen were excluded. The hair fragments found under Borns’s fingernail were found to have DNA that was not from Borns, and was not from Mozee or Allen.

The blood-stained hammer was tested. Borns’s DNA was found on the ball end of the tool, while blood found on the handle did not match Borns and also excluded Mozee and Allen.

Due to the different DNA testing methods used, there was no way to determine if the unidentified profiles were from the same person or to submit the profiles to the FBI DNA database.

In addition, the prosecution opened up the trial file maintained by prosecutor Jackson and discovered a vast assortment of documents, including letters and police reports that were never disclosed to the defense lawyers for Mozee and Allen.

These documents included reports showing that detective Berry falsely claimed in a sworn affidavit and in court that “all three” of the clerks from the stores had identified Allen. In fact, there had been five clerks. One had identified someone else and the other said she could not identify anyone.

The file contained voluminous correspondence from Hardeman and Smith—the jailhouse informants—asking for leniency, asking when the prosecution would fulfill its promises of leniency, and detailing how both men got reduced sentences after their testimony.

In 2014, Hardeman and Smith were interviewed. Both recanted their testimony implicating Mozee and Allen, and admitted they lied when they said they had not sought or received benefits from the prosecution. Both said they lied because they wanted favorable treatment on their own cases. Hardeman, who was facing a sentence of 25 years to life on robbery charge, pled guilty and was sentenced to three years.

In September 2014, lawyers for Mozee and Allen filed a 109-page memorandum requesting a state law petition of habeas corpus to vacate their convictions. The petition outlined the failure of the prosecution to disclose “a staggering array of exculpatory evidence that had never before been disclosed.” It accused detective Berry of falsely testifying and manipulating and hiding evidence. It also accused prosecutor Jackson of knowingly allowing witnesses to testify falsely and arguing evidence that he knew was false.

On October 28, 2014, the prosecution agreed to the motion. The convictions were vacated and Mozee and Allen were freed on bond.

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus was then forwarded to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2015 and in 2016, the court remanded the writ requesting further investigation and findings. During that time, the Conviction Integrity Unit and Innocence Project developed more evidence. Robinson recanted his testimony and admitted it was a lie and other evidence showed how Berry and Jackson repeatedly worked to keep informants accused of probation violations from being incarcerated.

In March 2017, Dallas Criminal District Court Judge Everett Young adopted a 63-page finding and conclusion jointly submitted by the Conviction Integrity Unit and lawyers for Mozee and Allen. In January 2018, the Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the findings in full, granted the writs and ordered a new trial.

On May 10, 2019, the District Attorney dismissed the charges. Mozee and Allen were granted certificates of innocence, clearing the way for them to seek compensation from the state of Texas.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/11/2019
State:Texas
County:Dallas
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1999
Convicted:2000
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:36
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*