Alan Gell spent four years on death row because police investigators covered up overwhelming proof of his innocence. The sole evidence against him came from two teenage girls, who were caught on video plotting to lie. When the exculpatory evidence was finally disclosed, Gell was retried despite having an air-tight alibi and a medical examiner who said it was impossible that Gell committed the crime. A jury quickly found him not guilty — nine years after he was imprisoned for murder.
Gell was accused of the 1995 murder of Allen Ray Jenkins in Bertie County. Two teenage girls told police they saw Gell shoot Jenkins during a robbery in Jenkins’ home on the night of April 3. At the time, Gell was a petty criminal and drug dealer, but not a murderer. In reality, the crime had occurred at least a week later — when Gell was in the Bertie County jail on charges that he stole a truck.
Gell spent three years in jail awaiting his trial. During that time, investigators took statements from 17 of Jenkins’ friends and neighbors saying they saw him alive well after April 3, after which Gell could not possibly have committed the crime. They also discovered a tape recording of the two girls who accused Gell, and were his co-defendants, describing their efforts to make up a story to tell the police. None of this evidence was disclosed to Gell’s attorneys.
Quick Facts: Alan Gell
- Race: White
- County: Bertie
- Date of Crime: April 14, 1995
- Victim: Allen Ray Jenkins, Age 56
- Conviction Date: March 3, 1998
- Exoneration Date: February 18, 2004
- Years incarcerated: 9
- Years on death row: 4
- Real Perpetrator Found: No
- Errors: Gell was convicted despite witnesses having seen the victim after the date he was supposedly murdered by Gell, and despite Gell having been in jail at the time the murder actually took place. The state’s case was based heavily on false testimony.
At trial, when questioned about news reports of witnesses who saw Jenkins alive after April 3, prosecutors presented fabricated statements from several people who said they were unsure when they last saw Jenkins. In closing arguments, they said witnesses who claimed to have seen Jenkins after April 3 were either confused or lying. Gell was sentenced to death.
After his trial, Gell was appointed new attorneys who uncovered the 17 statements and the secret tape recording of the girls’ plot. The state Attorney General’s Office continued to press for Gell’s execution even after admitting this evidence had been hidden. A judge granted him a new trial, and instead of dismissing the charges, prosecutors re-tried Gell.
At the second trial, the jury heard the testimony of many witnesses who said unequivocally that they had seen Jenkins alive after April 3. They also heard a dramatic reversal from the medical examiner who testified at Gell’s first trial. She said that, before the original trial, prosecutors had misled her about the last date Jenkins was seen alive. She said that after reviewing more evidence and the statements of witnesses, she was certain that Jenkins had died after April 3.
The jury deliberated less than three hours before acquitting Gell.