Jurors find Allen guilty in murders of Lakewood officers

Lakewood: He was willing accomplice in killings, they say

May 20, 2011 

Maurice Clemmons’ day of reckoning in the murders of four Lakewood police officers came on a Seattle street nearly 18 months ago.

His getaway driver’s came Thursday in a Pierce County courtroom.

A Superior Court jury convicted Dorcus D. Allen of being an accomplice to four counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 29, 2009, deaths of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold of Lacey, Ronald Owens and Gregory Richards.

Allen, 40, was the only person charged with murder in the case. Six others were charged with helping Clemmons or Allen after the fact. Five were convicted of various crimes and are serving prison sentences. The other was acquitted.

Clemmons never faced a jury. A Seattle police officer shot him dead about 40 hours after he killed Renninger, Griswold, Owens and Richards at the Forza coffee shop in Parkland, where they’d gathered for breakfast.

Prosecutors targeted Allen not long after, accusing him of driving Clemmons to and from the vicinity of the coffee shop that Sunday morning knowing what his friend and employer intended to do.

After more than four days of deliberations, the jury found Allen guilty. Prosecutors will recommend he be sentenced to four consecutive life terms at his June 17 sentencing hearing.

After the verdict was announced Prosecutor Mark Lindquist exchanged hugs and handshakes with deputy prosecutors Stephen Penner and Phil Sorensen, who tried the case.

“Justice was done in this case, and we’re thrilled with this verdict,” Lindquist said.

Prosecutors had charged Allen as an accomplice to four counts of aggravated first-degree murder, the state’s highest crime. A conviction would have meant an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.

But jurors did not find the aggravating factors applied to Allen, deciding he wasn’t a major participant in the shootings. They did find the victims were police officers, which gives Judge Frederick Fleming the discretion to sentence Allen to life if he chooses.

The functional result would be the same should Fleming decide life sentences are not appropriate. Allen faces more than 100 years in prison under the standard guidelines, Penner said outside court.

Allen, who wore a stun belt throughout the trial as a security precaution, showed little emotion as the verdicts were read.

He did make a comment as he was led back to jail to await sentencing.

“You got what you wanted,” he told onlookers. “It won’t bring them back.”

Defense attorney Peter Mazzone, who represented Allen along with Mary K. High, told reporters the jury got it wrong and vowed an appeal.

“I think an innocent man was convicted,” Mazzone said. “This was a lynching, man. Come on.”

Mazzone and High argued at trial Allen did not know what Clemmons intended to do that day. Why would a man knowingly serving as the getaway driver for a cop killer stroll across the street to buy a cigar at a convenience store while the murders were being committed, Mazzone said outside court Thursday.

The defense attorney also contended the judge erred by allowing prosecutors to argue that Allen “should have known” what Clemmons intended to do. That misstated the law, Mazzone said.

“The jury was properly instructed,” Lindquist countered later.

Jurors who talked to reporters after the verdict said it was a tough call but that they ultimately decided prosecutors made their case.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Clemmons had talked about killing police for months and reiterated those threats at a Thanksgiving dinner attended by Allen three days before the shootings.

Clemmons also showed those in attendance a gun and said he planned to kill school children and other people as well.

Inga Galtney, 65 of Tacoma, said she and her fellow jurors constructed an elaborate time line of events the day of the shooting. It helped them establish that Allen must have dropped Clemmons off right outside the Forza, where four police cars were parked, she said.

“We believe him coming back by the Forza, he saw the cop cars and, to me, had a reasonable assumption that Maurice was going to do that,” juror Jim Smith said.

Jurors said the deliberations were tense. Early on, seven jurors were convinced of Allen’s guilty with five undecided.

Emotions ran high in the jury room right up until the verdict was announced, they said. Some people cried during the discussions and one vomited Thursday morning as their deliberations wound down.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Galtney said.

None of the victims’ family members were in court for the announcement. They are expected to attend Allen’s sentencing.

Lakewood assistant police chief Mike Zaro told reporters outside court the verdicts brought a sense of satisfaction, and he thanked the jury, the sheriff’s detectives who investigated the case and the Prosecutor’s Office.

“He was fully complicit in this, and now he’s suffering the consequences,” Zaro said of Allen. “As a department and as a law enforcement family, we’re glad we can get some kind of closure to this – some positive resolution, such that it is – and move on.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 adam.lynn@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime

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