State Supreme Court overturns conviction of accused getaway driver in Lakewood cop killings

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- The man accused of driving the getaway car after four Lakewood police officers were gunned down in 2009 is headed back to court.

State Supreme Court justices threw out Darcus Allen’s conviction, saying the prosecutor acted inappropriately and negatively affected the jury’s decision.

Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said it all comes down to just a few words his office used in their case against Allen.

But now Allen will get another trial.

“The first jury got it right, I’m confident the next jury will get it right,” said Lindquist.

“Mr. Allen knew Maurice Clemmons intended to kill those police officers, he was the getaway driver. That’s what the jury found and that’s what the Court of Appeals affirmed.

"The Supreme Court has reversed because the deputy prosecutor used in-artful language: specifically the phrase, ‘should have known,’ instead of ‘would have known,’ added Lindquist.

Clemmons walked into the Forza coffee shop on a Sunday morning and gunned down four Lakewood officers who were working on reports inside.

Allen was accused of waiting for Clemmons outside and driving him out of the area.

The Supreme Court Justices said when attorneys told the jury that Allen should have known about Clemmon’s plan to execute four police officers, prosecutors negatively affected the jury’s decision.

The high court said during Allen’s trial, the prosecutor repeatedly gave the jury an incorrect definition when describing whether Allen had “knowledge” of Clemmons’ plans

“The deputy prosecutor could have chosen his words more carefully but the jury convicted on the evidence -- not a few words or a single word,” said Lindquist.

Lakewood Police Chief Brett Farrar says he’s disappointed in the justice’s decision, but he’s not surprised.

“We’re all law enforcement professionals, we’ve all seen this happen over and over again,” said Farrar. “We don’t get too spun up at this point, it’s just a cost of doing business.”

Just how much a new trial would cost is unknown.

Once Allen is moved back into custody at the Pierce County Jail, prosecutors have 60 days to set a new trial date.