- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2004

WINDSOR, N.C. (AP) — A prisoner taken off death row after a judge ruled prosecutors withheld key evidence in his murder trial was found not guilty yesterday in a second trial.

Alan Gell, 28, has spent almost a decade behind bars for the 1995 murder of retired truck driver Allen Ray Jenkins, who was shot twice during a robbery. After the verdict, Mr. Gell hugged his attorneys and his mother wept in the courtroom.

Prosecutors who handled Mr. Gell’s retrial were not seeking the death penalty, but Mr. Gell faced an automatic life term if convicted. Prosecutors left court without comment.

Mr. Jenkins’ body was found April 14, 1995, inside his home in Aulander. Prosecutors built a case against Mr. Gell based on the testimony of two teenagers, Crystal Morris and Shanna Hall, Mr. Gell’s former girlfriend, who testified that they saw Mr. Gell pull the trigger and kill Mr. Jenkins during a robbery on April 3, 1995.

But prosecutors in Mr. Gell’s original trial withheld from defense attorneys a secretly taped phone call in which Miss Morris, then 15, did not answer when her boyfriend asked her twice whether Mr. Gell killed Mr. Jenkins. She also told her boyfriend she had to “make up a story” about Mr. Jenkins’ death.

Also withheld by prosecutors were statements from more than a dozen witnesses who said they saw Mr. Jenkins alive after April 3. Mr. Gell was either out of the state or in jail on a car-theft charge from April 4 until after Mr. Jenkins’ body was found April 14.

During the retrial, three experts testified that Mr. Jenkins’ body and the scene of his killing were not consistent with the prosecution’s argument that he was killed 11 days prior.

Investigators found no physical evidence such as hair, blood, fingerprints or fibers linking Mr. Gell to Mr. Jenkins’ death.

Police found the shotgun and other items in July 1995 after Miss Morris and Miss Hall told them where they had been hidden.

Both Miss Hall and Miss Morris reached plea bargains with prosecutors in which they promised to testify truthfully in return for being allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and receive sentences of nearly 10 years in prison.

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