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Prosecutors’ Misconduct Frees Two in Texas

DALLAS (CN) - Two Texas men were freed Tuesday when their life sentences were overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct during their murder trials.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins agreed Tuesday morning to overturn the convictions of Stanley O. Mozee, 55, and Dennis Lee Allen, 52. The men were convicted of the robbery and stabbing death of the Rev. Jesse Borns Jr., who was killed in April 1999.

Dallas County Judge Mark Stoltz released Mozee and Allen on $25,000 bond during a hearing packed with their friends, family and other exonerees.

Both men await appellate rulings on their case and new trials.

Allen told the media outside the courtroom that he feels like he is "in heaven."

"Try to imagine the best joy you ever experienced in your life," he said. "That's what I'm feeling right now."

Mozee said that despite his ordeal he is not mad at anyone.

"I give the Dallas County judicial system a positive note," he said. "The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [must now] act and do the just thing in this matter."

District attorney spokeswoman Debbie Denmon said Watkins' office was approached by the Innocence Project in late 2008 and allowed its workers to review of the case files, in accordance with Watkins' open file policy.

"It was only after this open file review that the Conviction Integrity Unit and the Innocence Project discovered letters written by jailhouse informants who were ultimately called as witnesses by the state," Denmon said in a statement.

"In these letters, the witnesses demanded certain benefits from a former Dallas County prosecutor in exchange for testifying, and/or sought to have the prosecutor deliver on promises that the witnesses believed had been made in exchange for their testimony."

The letters and "substantive discussions" were not disclosed at either Mozee's or Allen's trials.

"Consequently, at least one witness was allowed to mislead jurors about why he was testifying," Denmon said.

Watkins said the prosecutorial misconduct occurred in an administration before his, and that the tactics used to win a conviction were "wrong back then, and it is wrong today."

"Allowing a jury to be swayed due to prosecutors playing dirty just further erodes the trust of the criminal justice system," he said after the hearing.

Innocence Project co-director Barry Scheck urged state officials to "conduct a thorough investigation of the prosecutor's handling of this matter and hold him accountable if he violated professional responsibilities, as the evidence strongly suggests."

DNA tests conducted on "a trove of physical evidence" from the crime scene did not match Mozee or Allen, he said.

"However, DNA from one or more persons that does not match the defendants or the victim was identified on several items, including a bloodstain from the scene, a hammer found next to the victim's body, and a hair underneath the victim's fingernails, potentially from a close-range struggle in which the victim suffered numerous defensive wounds to his hands," the Innocence Project said Tuesday afternoon.

Allen's attorney, Gary Udashen, said the record showed "there was never a shred of credible evidence pointing to either" man.

"Instead the prosecution built a case from several unreliable jailhouse informants. As the court found, under questioning by the prosecutor, these informants falsely denied that they expected help from the prosecutor with their own cases," Udashen said. "In fact, as the court also found, these jailhouse informants testified against Mozee and Allen only in exchange for promised help from the prosecutor."

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