Crime & Courts

Retrial begins for Wasilla man freed on appeal of murder conviction in toddler daughter’s death

PALMER — The retrial of Clayton Allison in the 2008 death of his toddler daughter began this week more than three years after he was freed from prison on appeal.

Allison’s 2015 conviction was overturned in 2019 by the Alaska Court of Appeals, which found the judge presiding over the case failed to allow jurors to hear about a potentially fatal medical condition the child may have had.

Now the 39-year-old Wasilla resident returns to the Palmer courthouse to face a new jury, this time in a retrial his supporters — including his wife, Christiane “CJ” Allison, the child’s mother — hope will exonerate him fully.

Allison’s retrial began Wednesday in Palmer Superior Court. The proceeding is expected to last at least four weeks.

Allison was convicted in 2015 of second-degree murder in the death of his daughter, Jocelyn. His appeal came as he was serving a 30-year sentence at Goose Creek Correctional Center near Wasilla, the state’s largest prison.

The child died of traumatic brain injuries that Allison claimed happened when she fell down the stairs. Prosecutors argued abuse caused the 15-month-old’s injuries, which included old and new bleeding in the brain, rib and leg bruises, and dislocated neck vertebrae.

His appeal centered on Palmer Superior Court Judge Vanessa White’s decision not to allow evidence that Jocelynn could have had an undiagnosed medical condition.


According to the appeals court opinion, the child had multiple unexplained health problems that her family was seeking genetic testing for. During the trial, White forbade Allison’s witnesses from discussing Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic condition that could have made her prone to the internal bleeding that caused her death.

Ehlers-Danlos is a group of nervous system disorders affecting the body’s connective tissues. It can cause those who have it to bleed and bruise more easily, and in its most severe form can cause blood vessels and organ walls to rupture. CJ Allison was diagnosed with a form of the syndrome after the toddler’s death.

Prosecutors had argued the potential diagnosis was too speculative to allow as evidence, according to the appeals court opinion.

White also threw out a separate 2009 admission of abuse from Allison, finding it coerced and involuntary.

The judge ruled the jury wouldn’t hear the admission because investigators failed to follow up on Allison’s mention of an attorney during questioning. But Allison also invited the investigators into his home after leaving the station and repeated the same details of the abuse, this time in front of his family, an Alaska State Troopers investigator said around the time of sentencing.

CJ Allison has advocated for her husband throughout the case. This week, Allison urged supporters to come to court to participate in person if possible.

“This opportunity requires enduring another painful criminal trial, but freedom and the granting of true justice are worth that cost,” supporters wrote on a website created to advocate for Allison’s innocence.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at