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Saturday, June 23, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.
Court overturns conviction of cop killer's sister
By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter
A state appeals court on Friday overturned the conviction of cop killer Maurice Clemmons' sister, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for helping a close friend of her brother's escape police after the slaying of four Lakewood officers.
In a 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that LaTanya Clemmons knew her brother's friend, Darcus Allen, was wanted by police and considered an accomplice in the 2009 slaying of four Lakewood police officers at a coffee shop in nearby Parkland, just south of Tacoma.
But in a statement Friday, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, quoting the dissenting judge, said prosecutors presented "ample evidence" to support the jury's conclusion that LaTanya Clemmons knew, as would any reasonable person, that Allen was being sought in the murder investigation.
Lindquist said the appeals-court's decision was predicated on the majority's acceptance of LaTanya Clemmons' and Allen's "self-serving lies." Lindquist said he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
The "reversal of a jury's well-reasoned decision can anger people and erode faith in our criminal-justice system," he said. "I'm confident the jury's verdict will be upheld by the higher court and justice will prevail."
LaTanya Clemmons, who had no criminal history and had been working three jobs when her brother killed the police officers, was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance in the wake of the slayings.
A Pierce County Superior Court convicted her of two counts and she was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison. Because of good behavior, she was transferred to a work-release site in May and was scheduled to be released from custody next month.
The appeals courts found that prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Darcus Allen immediately knew Maurice Clemmons had committed the murders or that he was being sought by police as an accomplice to the slayings.
While LaTanya Clemmons admitted to police that she drove Allen to a hotel and gave him money for a bus ride to Arkansas, prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she did so to help him escape prosecution, the appeals court ruled.
"We can easily infer from the above evidence that Maurice was capable of and did commit the four murders. We can also infer that Allen was with Maurice on the drive to the carwash and that he drove Maurice away from the carwash after the shootings. But this evidence does not prove that LaTanya knew Allen actively participated in the murders as an accomplice," the two appeals-court judges said in their ruling.
According to the court opinion, Allen denied knowing what Maurice Clemmons had done in the coffee shop and there was testimony that he said, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," as he watched TV reports in the wake of the slayings. The appeals-court ruling also states that Allen gave LaTanya Clemmons no indication that he had helped to plan or facilitate the slayings other than to drive away with Clemmons after the murders were committed.
Allen was ultimately charged with aggravated first-degree murder, as an accomplice, and convicted by a jury in 2011. He was given a 420-year prison sentence. Four other friends or relatives of Clemmons were also convicted of helping him in the wake of the killings and sentenced to prison.
It was not immediately clear if the Court of Appeals ruling might affect the other convictions.
Christine Clarridge: email@example.com
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