Durham prosecutors and the State Bureau of Investigation violated the U.S. and state constitutions and state law by withholding key evidence from Derrick Allen in the 1998 sexual assault and death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter, a judge ruled Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, using unusually strident language, said the actions of the state's lawyers and analysts were willful, intentional, deceptive, fraudulent, flagrant and egregious.
Hudson, the senior resident judge in Durham, had already ruled on the case orally after a two-day hearing in December in which he tossed out murder, sexual assault and child abuse charges against Allen, a Durham man who spent 12 years in jail.
In the 46-page order released Thursday, he blamed the SBI and lawyers in the Durham District Attorney's Office for not playing straight with blood evidence and for withholding other information that would have been helpful to Allen's defense.
Allen always maintained his innocence - to police, to the child's family and in a jailhouse interview with The News & Observer - and had wanted a trial. But in 1999, he agreed to an Alford plea, meaning he didn't admit guilt but acknowledged there was evidence for a jury to convict him. He was sentenced to at least 43 years, but avoided a possible death penalty.
"It is no longer possible for Mr. Allen to ever receive a fair trial," Hudson wrote.