BROCKTON — Patriots safety Devin McCourty spent part of his Tuesday on a Zoom call with William Allen, who has served 27 years in prison. Allen is at Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater.
“He was the light in that room,” McCourty said Wednesday outside of Christ Congregational Church in Brockton. “He brought a lot of light and a lot of inspiration to me over the hour that I talked to him.”
McCourty has joined the efforts to free Allen, who was charged with first-degree felony murder in 1994 and convicted in 1997. A jury ruled that Allen was a joint venturer in an armed robbery of a reputed drug dealer.
Even though another man involved in the robbery committed the murder, Allen was charged with first-degree murder because he participated in a felony that resulted in a death.
Allen could have accepted a plea deal in which he would have pled guilty to second-degree murder and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Prosecutors offered the same deal to the killer, who accepted and has been out on parole since 2009.
But Allen turned it down.
“This young man did not understand the complex legal theory of felony murder at that time,” said attorney Kristine McDonald, who is a member of Allen’s current legal team.
“He rejected his attorney’s advice to accept the same deal as the actual perpetrator of the killing. William was ultimately convicted and received the mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole. "
Now, the only way for Allen to be released from prison is to receive a commutation of his sentence.
Based on Allen’s conduct while incarcerated, he and his legal team are asking Governor Charlie Baker to utilize his power of executive clemency. By doing so, Allen’s conviction would stand, but his sentence will be reduced.
“We believe that William has earned a second chance,” McDonald said. “We believe that he will be an asset to the community. Both the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and an independent evaluator have found William to be at low-risk for violence and recidivism.”
The Massachusetts Advisory Board of Pardons awarded Allen a commutation hearing scheduled for June, when he will have an opportunity to tell his story and share his progress over the past 27 years.
During his time in prison, Allen has had a clean disciplinary record for 17 years with no history of violence or substance abuse. He’s earned his barber’s license as well as tutored others in barbering. He’s also volunteered in the Bridgewater Companion Program that involves working with men behind bars with severe mental illness.
Prior to their Zoom call, McCourty had been learning about Allen’s situation and was eager to get involved when Rahsaan Hall, director of the racial justice program of ACLU Massachusetts, informed him about the case.
“When I heard it, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is something I want to get involved in,’” McCourty said.
McCourty will be participating in an informational (virtual) event April 14 to spread awareness about Allen’s story.
Said Hall: “[Devin], his brother, other players, their willingness to use their platform for these important racial justice issues sends a message not only to people in positions of power, but also to other folks similarly situated, other athletes, other people in positions of prominence, to say that these are important issues that we must pay attention to.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.