Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Aumans at Hunter S. Thompson Memorial

My friend Lisl is going to sing with her dad at Hunter Thompson's memorial this weekend. Why is that remarkable? She was never supposed to be able to. They will both be there to help advocate for the 45 people who were given life without parole when they were juveniles.

Rocky Mountain News -Now at age 53, given everything he has gone through, I figured Don Auman would long ago have found a hammock on a quiet beach somewhere - any place far from controversy, the spotlight and headlines.

Yet there his name was, at the bottom of a press release announcing a Mother's Day demonstration for the 45 juvenile offenders who now are serving life terms in Colorado's prison system.

His daughter, Lisl - absolutely the last person I ever figured would make another public appearance - is expected to join her father on the west steps of the Capitol on Sunday, the exact same spot where the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson headlined a celebrated rally seeking her release from prison on a felony murder conviction stemming from the murder of a Denver police officer.

"She is going to sing," her father said in an interview.

He will accompany her on the guitar, he said, insisting he did not know what the song might be.

The event is being sponsored by the Pendulum Foundation, a 6-year-old Colorado organization that says its mission is to educate the public about the issue of children in adult prisons, and to attempt to transform the lives of juveniles now serving life behind bars.

The memorial, as it is called, is an outgrowth of a PBS Frontline program that aired last Tuesday that documented the crimes and sentences of five Colorado youths, all convicted of murder or felony murder.

That there are now 45 people sentenced as juveniles serving life in prison in Colorado prisons stems from a crackdown in the late 1980s and 1990s on juveniles who kill, the PBS program maintained.

Last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for juveniles, Colorado became the first state to pass a reform bill limiting juvenile life sentences to 40 years before eligibility for parole.

The problem is, getting the bill through the state legislature meant making it not retroactive. Hence, the 45.

Each one of them outrages Don Auman. As many know, his daughter, Lisl, was accompanying Matthaus Jaehnig the day in 1997 when - after clearing her things out of a boyfriend's apartment - Jaehnig engaged in a police chase, got out and shot and killed Denver officer Bruce VanderJagt. He then killed himself.

Lisl Auman did not pull a trigger, was not with Jaehnig when Bruce VanderJagt was killed. Indeed, she was in police custody before the fatal shot was fired.

It was enough, however, that she was with Jaehnig in his car, involved in the chase, in the hours before the officer was killed, which resulted in her being convicted of felony murder.

Since the day his daughter was sentenced to life in prison on the felony murder conviction, Don Auman fought for her release, which did not come for eight years, when the Supreme Court finally remanded the case for review and the state cut a work-release deal.

"I made a lot of connections over those years," Don Auman explains of his participation on Sunday. "For me, life has gone on, but there are still a lot of miscarriages (of justice) going on. The (Pendulum) Foundation has a lot of valid points to make and has made great inroads in educating people."

None of it, he says, is at all to minimize the pain of the families of the victims of the 45 now serving life. He wants this made clear.

"I have so much sympathy for them and their families," Don Auman said. "At the same time, I believe there are two sides to every story, and in these cases, often only one side gets told."

No, he is hardly obsessed with his daughter's experience, he said. He is, he simply says, grateful that he was able to advocate for her.

She is now working and going to school, he said, already having finished two years of college. They have not spoken of Matthaus Jaehnig, of what occurred that day, he said.

"We don't need to."

Rocky Mountain News

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