After spending 13 months behind bars, a Fresno man walked out of the Fresno County Jail a free man Friday after prosecutors dismissed a murder charge against him.
Fresno police say Stephon Ali Allen, 29, shot Anthony Hood, also 29, on Easter Sunday last year at the Manchester Gardens on Clark Street near Dakota Avenue and Highway 41 in central Fresno. Hood later died at Community Regional Medical Center.
Allen, who faced life in prison if convicted of murder, was arrested on April 24, 2014.
Proving he killed Hood has been difficult for the District Attorney’s Office.
In his first trial last year, the jury deadlocked on the murder charge after Allen’s lawyer, Franz Criego, argued that Allen had no motive to kill Hood since they were best friends. “They were close like brothers and shared common tattoos,” Criego told the jury while pointing out that a shoe print discovered at the crime scene was not connected to Allen, and there was no evidence to prove that Allen had discharged a firearm.
In addition, Criego said witnesses gave conflicting accounts of what happened.
Prosecutor Becky Gong agreed Allen, who is known as “Gotti,” and Hood, who was known as “Boogie,” were friends, but they had a falling out over a wallet that belonged to Allen’s female friend. The wallet was found in the apartment were Hood was killed, Gong told the jury.
According to Gong, witnesses told police that shortly before 3 a.m. April 20, 2014, Allen knocked the door of an apartment where Hood was living with a female friend. The gunman then fired several shots through the front security door. After the shooting, a witness picked Allen out of a police photo lineup, Gong told the jury.
But Criego pointed out that another witness heard a man and woman argue over the wallet before shots were fired.
Because the jury was unable to reach an unanimous verdict, Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. declared a mistrial on Dec. 1. The mistrial allowed Gong to retry Allen on the murder charge.
On the eve of Allen’s second murder trial, Gong made a motion to dismiss the case because a witness was unavailable to testify, court records say.
Judge James Petrucelli granted the motion Thursday. Gong can refile the murder charge if her witness become available.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said Friday that the office had an ethical obligation to dismiss the case. “We can only file criminal charges and proceed to trial in cases where we believe that the evidence supports a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
In this case, he said, “sometimes during trial things come up which are beyond our control — but we deal with them as best we can within the law.”