Just over six months have passed already, since the Ohio Supreme court, in January 2011, citing a technicality, reversed the acquittal of falsely accused and wrongfully convicted Joseph Allen and Nancy Smith, of Lorraine, Ohio.
Allen and Smith had already served nearly 15 years for crimes that never occurred.
Smith, serving a 30-90 year sentence, Allen five life terms, were freed in 2009, after the Honorable James Burge found that the prosecution not only coerced and manipulated children and their testimony, but also kept exculpatory evidence from the defense.
After two years of freedom, Allen and Smith now face the possibility of returning to prison to serve the remainder of their original sentences.
Brad Dicken at the Lorraine County Chronicle-Telegram explains: “Burge didn’t have the power to hold a new sentencing entry, the Supreme Court decision said. He also lacked the authority to issue an acquittal in the case, which he did a few months after freeing Smith and Allen while he reconsidered the sentence.”1
In “The Shame of Lorraine, Ohio,” Lona Manning at Crime Magazine details the 1993 case. A woman went to police, claiming a Head Start bus driver had taken her daughter to a man named Joseph, who “tied her up, taped her eyes, and molested her with a stick.” The article also notes that “Officers attending at the hospital noted in their report that most of the information was provided by the mother and the attending nurse, not by the little girl herself, who was physically unharmed.”2
Perhaps unsurprisingly, as rumors and allegations spread and multiplied, other parents joined in–in addition to suing Head Start for $20 million.
Attorney Jack W. Bradley explains the theory of the crime(s): Nancy Allen, according to the prosecution,
would keep about five kids on the bus, not let them go to the school, and take them to this Joseph Allen’s house during the afternoon, she and Joseph Allen would sexually abuse these kids, all afternoon — tie a kid up in the front yard to a tree, poke them with needles, urinate on him, and get them all dressed and cleaned up and take them home — drop them off at their parents.3
“All this,” writes Manning, “while Smith was working her other job, driving a bus afternoons for the Meals on Wheels program.”4
Although the children showed no physical signs of sexual assault, much less being stuck with sticks and needles and tied and beaten with ropes, and although no one in town ever noticed a school bus parked outside of Allen’s house (Smith didn’t actually know Allen, prior to the allegations), the prosecution’s “shocking” tale, told to a 1994 jury drowning in similar tales reported uncritically, seemingly every night on the news, seemed a plausible scenario of abuse. (See also, “The Cost of False Cases of Child Sexual Abuse” and “Believe the Children.”)
On Nov. 4, 1993, Lorain Police brought in more than a half-dozen children to see if the could pick Joseph Allen out of a police line-up. . . . Most of the children failed to pick Allen out. One child, a 5-year-old boy, was brought into the room three separate times and given more than a dozen chances to pick Allen out of the line of men. He never did. Eight months later, at a trial, the boy pointed Joseph Allen out as the man who had hurt him. The jury never saw the line-up tape.5
Smith and Allen have the support of the National Center for Reason and Justice, who issued the following statement after the twice-cooked disaster that was Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling of 27 January, 2011:
We know of no other instance in American law where a Court has attempted to imprison the acquitted —a blatant infringement of Constitutional protection against double jeopardy, as well as the constitutional principle of Due Process of Law.
The NCRJ has sponsored Nancy Smith’s and Joseph Allen’s cases for years, and we firmly believe in their innocence. They will continue to have our full support. We will fight for them until justice is achieved.6
1 Brad Dicken. “Ohio Supreme Court reinstates Head Start convictions; Nancy Smith, Joseph Allen to return to prison.” The Chronicle-Telegram. January 27th, 2011 http://chronicle.northcoastnow.com/2011/01/27/ohio-supreme-court-reinstates-head-start-convictions-smith-allen-to-return-to-prison/
2 Lona Manning. “The Shame of Lorain, Ohio.” Crime Magazine. December 6, 2002 Updated: April 17, 2011 http://www.crimemagazine.com/shame-lorain-ohio
5 Rachel Dissell. “One of accusers in Lorain Head Start child-molestation case, now 22, beginning to have doubts if abuse ever occurred.” The Plain Dealer April 17, 2011.