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January 15, 2015 at 8:48 AM

Court overturns conviction of Lakewood cop killer’s getaway driver

Darcus Allen

Darcus Allen

Darcus Allen, the man convicted of driving Maurice Clemmons to and from the coffee shop where Clemmons ambushed four Lakewood police officers in 2009, had his conviction and 420-year sentence overturned by the state Supreme Court Thursday morning.

In a unanimous opinion, the court ruled that the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office engaged in “prejudicial misconduct” during Allen’s 2011 trial “by misstating the proper standard upon which the jury could find Allen acted with knowledge.”

The court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals and ordered a new trial.

The murders of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronnie Owens and Greg Richards was the deadliest single act of violence against police in state history and touched off a massive 40-hour manhunt after Clemmons escaped.

Clemmons evaded police by fleeing to Seattle, staying at his ex-girlfriend’s house and then at a South Seattle crack house. Clemmons tried to ambush Seattle Police Officer Benjamin Kelly on the morning of Dec. 1, but Kelly shot and killed him.

In the wake of the shootings, seven of Clemmons‘ relatives and friends were charged with aiding the gunman. Allen, 43, was convicted of four counts of aggravated murder.

Clemmons‘ sister, aunt, cousin, ex-girlfriend and former employee were convicted of aiding him while he was on the run. His brother, Rickey Hinton, was acquitted.

In December, Clemmons‘ aunt and cousin both had their gun convictions overturned and exceptional sentences reversed by the state Supreme Court.

Allen was a one-time prisonmate of Clemmons in Arkansas.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“As the getaway driver, Allen knew Maurice Clemmons’s plan,” Lindquist said in a statement. “This is what the jury found and the court of appeals affirmed their verdict. The deputy prosecutor should have phrased his argument more artfully so it was not open to misinterpretation, but it was the evidence that convicted Allen, not the deputy prosecutor’s words. I’m sorry the families and the community have to endure another trial. Sometimes the pursuit of justice can be a long and arduous path, but I’m confident we will get there. ”

Once Allen is returned to the Pierce County Jail, the case will be set for a new trial within 60 days, Lindquist said.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Lakewood Police, Lakewood Police Department, Maurice Clemmons

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