William Allen released from prison after his life sentence was commuted

William Allen released from prison.

After serving nearly 28 years of a life sentence for first-degree murder, Allen, now 48, was released from Old Colony Correctional Center last week.

Allen lives with his family in Brockton. So far, the transition back home has been smooth, he said. He focuses on spending time with his family.

“It feels good,” Allen said in a phone interview. “I just want to hang out with Pops, my dad and just drive with him. I think that’s the most important thing right now.”

William Allen speaks with his father, Thurston Allen, hours after his release from prison (Courtesy Patty DeJuneas)

Allen was convicted of the 1994 murder of Purvis Bester in Brockton. Although he participated in the robbery that led to the murder, it was his accomplice who fatally stabbed Bester. This man was paroled over ten years ago.

Because Allen would not plead guilty to murder charges, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole under an old state law that allowed “felony murder” charges. Under this law, someone who participated in a crime but played no role in a murder can be punished as harshly as the actual murderer.

The law changed with a 2017 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling barring first-degree murder convictions — and their automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole — against a person who did not kill. .

The law change was one of the reasons retired Supreme Court Judicial Justice Robert Cordy said he helped represent Allen throughout the commutation process.

Dozens of people have publicly supported Allen’s switch petition, including New England Patriots player Devon McCourty and Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz.

Allen’s release marked the first time in a quarter-century that a sentence for first-degree murder has been commuted in Massachusetts.

“In 25 years, that has never happened,” Allen said. “And compared to people who had been trying to make the switch for years, it gives them hope. But it wasn’t just me, it was my team that did this. They found the combination to unlock the lock.”

Allen plans to start a job at a local car dealership soon. He also wants to work with at-risk youth because he often thinks of his son who was almost two years old when Allen was sentenced to life in prison.

“I want to let teenagers know that even though their parents aren’t always there, someone loves them,” Allen said. “Because they’re going to be squeezed out by these gangs and bad influences. And they’ll feel like they have to find love somewhere else when they can find love right in front of them.”

Under the conditions of his parole, Allen must abide by a curfew, be placed under electronic monitoring, undergo mental health and substance abuse evaluations, participate in counseling and not contact the family of the victim of his crime.

The biggest adjustment to life outside of prison has been technology, Allen said, especially learning to deal with phones and televisions.

“It’s totally different,” Allen said. “Even though when I was in prison, I installed all the DVD players and I did it perfectly. But this stuff here? You have to be very patient and say to yourself, ‘take your time’. Because if you don’t take your time, you end up buying a movie by accident.”

William Allen chats with Karen Elliott Greisdorf of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network as he settles into his room hours after his release from prison.  (Courtesy of Patty DeJuneas)
William Allen chats with Karen Elliott Greisdorf of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network as he settles into his room hours after his release from prison. (Courtesy of Patty DeJuneas)

In January, Governor Charlie Baker recommended commuting Allen’s sentence to second-degree murder charges, making him eligible for parole. Allen’s commutation and that of Thomas Koonce, from an unrelated matter, were the first requests for clemency granted by Baker since taking office.

After Baker’s recommendation, the Governor’s Council unanimously approved the commutation of Allen’s and Koonce’s sentences. The parole board also unanimously approved their release from prison. Both men will be on parole for the rest of their lives.

Koonce will be released into a rehabilitation program for four months before he can live in the community.

Fix: Due to incorrect information we received, a previous post misidentified a person in the last photo

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