Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen -- Lorain, Ohio

as featured in the Discovery Channel program "Guilty or Innocent?"
click here for information on how to help Nancy and Joseph

January 27, 2011 -- Ohio Supreme Court Reverses:

"Two innocent people are on their way to the penitentiary"  -- Judge James Burge

Today the Ohio Supreme Court overturned Burge's ruling. Nancy and Joseph's lawyers will continue to work to keep them out of prison and establish their complete innocence.

 June 24, 2009 -- Nancy and Joseph acquitted and free!

Lorain County Common Please Judge James Burge acquitted Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen, saying, "The court has absolutely no confidence that [the guilty verdicts] are correct." Thank you Judge Burge for seeing the truth!

                                                             
Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen were convicted of sexually abusing young children in August of 1994.  Smith, a 37-year-old single mother with four children, was a bus driver for the Lorain, Ohio Head Start.  The prosecution charged that after delivering the children to school, she would sometimes keep three or four of them and take them to a mysterious location, where she and a man known to the children only as "Joseph" would commit various sexual acts with them, make them drink urine, and poke them with needles and sticks.  

But an examination of the police investigation leaves many disturbing questions; questions about the children's testimony, questions about whether Smith and Allen even knew each other -- questions about whether, in fact, any crimes were committed at all.

The Head Start investigation began on May 1993, when a mother claimed that her five-year-old daughter told her that instead of going to school that day, her bus driver Nancy had taken her to "Joseph's" house where "Joseph" peed on her and molested her with a stick. The police investigation revealed that nothing unusual could have happened that day -- Nancy had gone on her regular bus routes and there was another adult with her.

But the girl's mother went to the media and the story became public.  Other parents and their children came forward, alleging abuse. Some children said  "Joseph" was white, others that he was black, or a white man who painted himself black, or a black man with blue eyes.

A few months later, Joseph Allen came to the attention of Lorain police when he reported a stolen vehicle.  Allen had a 1985 conviction for sexual battery on a seven-year-old girl, for which he had served his sentence.  Allen was a dark-skinned black man with brown eyes and light colored scars on his abdomen.  Police were convinced they had their man.

Nine of the ten children who had alleged abuse failed to pick Allen's picture out of a photo line up.  At a live line up the next day, only three out of seven children chose him.  (And even these are open to question because the parents were tipped off as to which one was Allen. For example, one mother openly coached her daughter to pick "number two." )  

Prosecutor Jonathan Rosenbaum told the jury that the children hadn't identified Allen at the line up because they were paralyzed with fear. One mother testified that when her little boy saw Allen, he started crying and ran from the viewing room.  The video tape of the lineup, which was not shown to the jury, proves her testimony was false -- her son didn't cry or run from the room, but rather seemed to be having a good time.

Another damaging witness was Head Start employee Angel Powell, who had occasionally worked on Nancy Smith's bus as an aide. She testified that Allen had once tried to get on board and that she had frightened him away with a tire iron.  A Head Start parent came forward and testified that he recognized the incident and he was the man in question.  He had wanted to say hello to his son, but Powell had shooed him off.  Powell, however, stuck to her incriminating story.  Her cooperation with the prosecution might have come about because she wanted to avoid Nancy's fate  During the investigation, one of the children had named Powell, not Nancy, as the person who had taken her to "Joseph's" house.  

Allen's prior record spoke heavily against him, and yet he was connected to the case through the allegations against Nancy Smith, because if the part about the bus driver wasn't true, then none of the story was true.  Nancy Smith's presumption of innocence, on the other hand, was unfairly tarnished by Allen's record.  Even Head Start records didn't help them, because Rosenbaum, who had a reputation has a hard-driving, even ruthless prosecutor, suggested that the school officials might have falsified her driving logs and other records to cover up the scandal.  (No charges of this sort were ever brought).

The jury declared Smith and Allen guilty.  "I don't think (the children) could have gone into details like that if they were lying,"  explained one juror.

"I have never met this man,"  Smith sobbed as the verdict was pronounced. "I have never seen this man.  I never touched those children. Ever."

Judge Lynette Gough sentenced Joseph Allen to five consecutive life sentences -- a longer sentence than that received by Wayne Williams, the Atlanta child killer.  Nancy Smith received thirty to ninety years.

Update February 2007: Nancy Smith became eligible to apply for parole but was turned down.

Update February 2009: Nancy Smith was unexpectedly released on bail February 4, 2009 after Lorain (Ohio) County Common Pleas Court Judge James Burge overturned her 30-to-90-year sentence on a legal technicality. The judge set bail at $100,000 pending a new sentencing hearing. Supporters of Nancy and her co-accused, Joseph Allen, can donate to their cause through the National Center for Reason and Justice. Prosecutors have vowed to return Smith to prison.

Update April 14, 2009: Joseph Allen has also been released from prison on $100,000 bail. Allen told the Chronicle-Telegram: I was wrongfully accused and incarcerated for over 15 years, [but] he never lost faith that God would someday set him free. I had God before I went to prison, and I had him when I walked out of prison, he said.... Allen said now that hes free, his top priority is to go to church to thank God and those who have supported him over the years.

Update June 24, 2009: Nancy and Joseph acquitted and free!

Update January 27, 2011: Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Judge Burge did not have jurisdiction to overturn the sentences. They rule that Nancy and Joseph must return to prison. The cruelty of this decision is unimaginable.

Nancy Smith and her four children
 during a prison visit
 
Click here for longer article about
Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen:
The Shame of Lorain, Ohio

crimemagazine.com

 

Watch as Nancy realizes she is about to be freed from prison:

Watch as Judge Burge overturns Nancy and Joseph's conviction

 

Must-read article about Paul Facinelli, the journalist who uncovered the wrongdoing in the police line-up, and how his crusade cost him his job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Allen -- the children described a white man who painted himself black, with blue eyes 

 

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