The state Supreme Court ruled that driver Darcus Allen could be retried for first-degree murder, but not on aggravating circumstances that would increase his minimum sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole or release.
The man who drove Maurice Clemmons before and after he gunned down four Lakewood police officers at a Parkland coffee shop in 2009 will not face aggravated murder charges at his retrial.
Darcus D. Allen was sentenced to 420 years in prison on four counts of first-degree murder in June 2011, but the Washington state Supreme Court threw out the convictions and ordered a new trial in 2015, ruling that prosecutors from the office of outgoing Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist prejudiced the jury.
The state Supreme Court intervened in the case again Thursday. In an 8-1 ruling, the justices ruled that Allen could be retried for first-degree murder, but not on aggravating circumstances that would increase his minimum sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole or release. The court found that doing so would amount to double jeopardy, since the jury in 2011 had not found Allen guilty of aggravated murder counts.
Clemmons ambushed Lakewood police Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronnie Owens and Greg Richards in November 2009 while they were having coffee before their shift. Clemmons, who was wounded, was shot and killed by police in Seattle after a 40-hour manhunt.
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Allen was charged as an accomplice for driving Clemmons to and from the scene of the killings. He claimed he dropped Clemmons off at a car wash a quarter-mile away from the coffee shop and didn’t know of Clemmons’ plan, although he had previously attended a dinner where Clemmons threatened to kill police.
Jurors found Allen guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in 2011, but did not find him guilty of aggravated murder charges, which would have triggered the harsher sentencing. The judge gave Allen 420 years, the maximum sentence.
That sentence was overturned after the state Supreme Court found prosecutors told the jury inaccurate information that likely influenced its decision. The justices found the deputy prosecutor told jurors they could find Allen guilty if he should have known Clemmons was planning the murders, even though state law requires jurors to find Allen actually knew of the plan.
The case went to retrial, but Allen’s attorney argued recharging him with aggravated murder charges amounted to double jeopardy, and the courts agreed.
The court’s ruling upholds previous decisions by the Court of Appeals and trial court. Lindquist may seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to an emailed statement from the prosecutor’s office.