By Joel Hall
Despite being painted as a liar by detectives, prosecutors, and her own defense attorney, Allene Skinner, accused of convincing her lover to kill her husband, was acquitted of all charges.
After deliberating until the late afternoon on Thursday, a Clayton County Superior Court jury found Skinner not guilty of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Before Judge Geronda V. Carter read the verdict, relatives of the late Donald Ray Skinner breathed heavily, wrung their hands and prayed. Allene Skinner stood silently while her fate was being decided, her hands shaking violently behind her back.
Distraught family members of the shooting victim fled the courtroom in tears after all five counts came back "not guilty." Skinner hugged her lawyer, Malcolm Wells, and left without looking back into the courtroom.
The verdict left Donald Rex Skinner, father of Donald Ray, in shock and disbelief.
"I can't believe it," the elder Skinner said. "What does it take to get justice? [Allene Skinner] has no conscience. She is nothing but a vulture on society."
In June 2007, Donald Ray Skinner, a local truck driver, was gunned down in a Forest Park truck depot by Charles Allen Smith, a former police officer at the State Farmers Market. On Wednesday, Smith admitted to killing Donald Ray Skinner, saying his former lover (Allene Skinner) had pleaded with him for months to kill her husband.
Allene Skinner, who stands to receive $90,000 from her husband's life insurance policy, lied several times about her relationship with Smith, according to detectives. Despite illustrating a motive and Skinner's unique access to Donald Ray's work schedule, prosecutors were unable to sway the jury to convict her.
"To be honest, I thought that what we presented was sufficient," said Detective James Eskew, the case's main investigator. "She never mentioned her relationship with Charles Smith until we put her in a corner and we made her identify a picture. From her own mouth, she knew exactly when [her husband] would be at that business. She knew exactly what he was going to do when he got to that business.
"This was not justice," said Eskew.
Wells, Skinner's defense attorney, was surprised by the verdict, but pleased with the result.
"When I put my head down, I prayed that God's will would be done," said Wells. "It's good to see that our justice system works."
However, Donald Ray Skinner's father complained that Judge Carter denied crucial evidence from being presented during the trial. "She [Allene Skinner] has been trying to get him killed for 11 years," he said. "The prosecution had people that would testify to that, but the judge wouldn't allow it. They denied the phone records." The elder Skinner said the court gave his daughter-in-law "a license to kill, steal, and connive."
Family members of the late Skinner were angry and inconsolable after the trial.
"Clayton County can go to hell with her when she goes," said Carol Skinner, Donald Ray's mother. "Charles Smith told the truth. I can forgive him for what he did to my son, but I can never forgive her.
"She is going to get hers," said Carol Skinner.
Candy Adams, Donald Ray's sister, lamented the loss of her only brother and described his wife as a callous and cold person. "He had four sisters," said Adams. "He was killed only three days before his 50th birthday, so we had his funeral viewing on his birthday. My brother was a good man," said Adams. "[Skinner] didn't cry at my brother's funeral."
Adams said because her brother was killed on the job, Skinner stands to receive more from the insurance settlement. However, family members say they will challenge her in court, in an attempt to deny her access to what they view as ill gotten gains.
"We're going to file a wrongful death suit against her," said Adams. "She'll have to sue us to get it."