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Ruling allows retrial for getaway driver in Lakewood police killings to proceed

The trial against Darcus Allen is set to begin Sept. 22.

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — A new trial can proceed in the case against the getaway driver in the 2009 Lakewood police killings following a ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The trial against Darcus Allen is set to begin Sept. 22.

Allen was the driver for gunman Maurice Clemmons, who killed Lakewood Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Greg Richards, Tina Griswald and Ronald Owens as they sat in a coffee shop preparing for their Sunday morning shift on Nov. 29, 2009.

At the time of the killings, Clemmons had posted bail following an arrest for punching officers. During a Thanksgiving dinner that Allen attended, Clemmons said he intended to kill any officers who came looking for him.

Three days later, Clemmons asked Allen to drive him near the coffee shop. Allen also drove him away from it. Allen insisted he did not know Clemmons' plans ahead of time and that he did not realize anything had happened until they drove a few blocks and he saw that Clemmons was wounded.

Clemmons, a felon from Arkansas, fled in a pickup truck that Allen drove. Clemmons evaded a massive manhunt that ended two nights later, when a lone Seattle patrolman encountered Clemmons on a street and shot him dead.

A jury convicted Allen of first-degree murder as an accomplice in 2011. The jury cleared him of the aggravating factors: that he knew the victims would be police officers and that there were multiple victims or that the killings were planned. Those factors would have led to an automatic sentence of life in prison.

In 2015, the state Supreme Court overturned those convictions and in 2018 ruled Allen's retrial couldn't include the aggravating factors because he'd already been acquitted. 

The Pierce County Prosecutor's Office refiled the charges without the aggravating factors, but Allen's defense argued trying him on those would be double jeopardy. That argument was rejected. 

Allen's defense filed it in federal court as a habeas corpus petition. In 2021, the federal district court dismissed the petition.

Allen's defense appealed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sept. 15, a Ninth Circuit judge upheld the district court's ruling and dismissed the petition. 

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