State prosecutors will retry father after court reverses murder conviction in toddler's death
State prosecutors intend to retry a man whose murder conviction in the death of his 15-month-old daughter was reversed last month, the Department of Law confirmed for the first time Tuesday.
In 2015, a jury found Wasilla father Clayton Allison guilty in the death of his toddler, Jocelynn Allison, who suffered a fatal injury while in his care on Sept. 24, 2008. Now 36, Clayton has been serving a 30-year sentence for the second-degree murder conviction.
According to an opinion document provided by the appellate court:
"It was established during the trial that J.A., in fact, had two subdural hematomas: an older chronic one and a newer acute one. Various witnesses testified to prior falls where J.A. failed to extend her arms when she fell down, forcefully hitting her head on the ground or on a piece of furniture as a result. The defense argued that the older hematoma was likely caused by one of these prior falls, and that the older hematoma made J.A. especially vulnerable to the newer one. The State argued that, despite this preexisting injury, J.A. could not have sustained a fatal injury from a fall down the stairs and therefore the only possible explanation for her death was physical abuse."
In July, the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, agreeing with Clayton's argument that the trial court judge was wrong for not allowing him to present potentially exculpatory evidence.
After Jocelynn's death, her mother, Christiane Allison, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome — a hereditary tissue disorder that might have explained the severity of her daughter's injuries.
The opinion document states:
"After J.A.'s death, J.A.'s mother traveled to the Mayo Clinic, where she was subsequently diagnosed as having "Ehlers-Danlos type 3 appearance with hypermobile joints." (This is a nonvascular version of the disorder.) According to Dr. Smith, there is a fifty percent chance of a person with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome passing on that condition to their children. According to Dr. Ophoven, a family history of any type of Ehlers-Danos Syndrome is a factor that should be considered in any case involving significant bleeding, such as J.A.'s."
After the the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, Christiane — who says she's never doubted her husband's innocence — waited to find out whether the state would appeal the case to the Alaska Supreme Court. She said the move could have kept Clayton in limbo behind bars for three to five years.
Tuesday, they learned the state did not appeal the decision. Clayton called Christiane in the afternoon to share what they view as a second victory.
"It has definitely been a long wait, but oh my gosh the validation is just amazing," he told KTVA over the phone.
From prison, he said he's not scared of going back to court.
"I actually look forward to a chance to prove my innocence in a second trial," Clayton said.
The two seemed to be in good spirits as they continued a private conversation. Both say they are blessed to have each other and a strong marriage that has withstood more difficulty than most. They'll celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary in September.
Even knowing the state plans to take Clayton to trial again, the couple is hopeful. The decision returns Clayton to a pretrial status, meaning he can request a bail hearing and possibly come home.
"Our pretrial process was almost seven years after my daughter passed away," Christiane said. "It’s a long time to wait for somebody to come and steal your life. And then after the conviction, you know, it’s been four and a half, and we’ve been continuing to fight that battle."
She is not surprised that prosecutors want to try the case again.
"We were basically told that they had the basic inclination that they were going to charge us until they won or he died," she said, later adding, "It’s important to remember that no one in Jocelynn's life ever wanted this case prosecuted. There is no victim in this case."
The statement from the Department of Law Tuesday was simple.
"The Department of Law determined that the appellate decision was not appropriate for petition to the supreme court," a spokesperson wrote in an email. "But the Department of Law does intend to re-try the case once the case has been officially remanded and a court hearing is scheduled. That has not occurred yet."
Christiane believes the effort now is merely to save face.
"We are all hoping that they will see that this is a mistaken case of a genetic condition influencing a false accusation of abuse," she said.
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