“Lost” Masters conversation may have been taped illegally
Even prosecutors agree Masters' conversation with his dad should have been given to his attorneys
December 4, 2007
A 1987 conversation between a 15-year-old Tim Masters and his father on the day after Peggy Hettrick was brutally murdered and mutilated may have been held without either of them realizing it was being tape recorded, a violation of Colorado law.
Worse, the conversation was required under discovery laws to be turned over to his defense attorneys just like any other statement a defendant might make. But like a lot of other material coming to light for the first time in Masters’ bid for a new trial on the murder charges, the transcript was never provided to his defense lawyers prior to his 1999 trial.
Had it been, his former defense lawyer said it would have helped prove their case that Masters was innocent: Masters, in a candid conversation he presumed was private, denied his involvement in the murder to his father.
Erik Fischer, one of Masters’ former defense lawyers, said he’d been given a written summary of the conversation by Det. Jim Broderick before Masters stood trial for the 1987 killing of Peggy Hettrick, but was never shown the full transcript, or told that the conversation was tape recorded.
The transcript surfaced only recently from a collection of microfilmed documents found at the Fort Collins Police department’s records office.
It’s not clear if the two knew they were being tape recorded; if they didn't, the recording may have been done illegally. Colorado law specifies that at least one party to a recorded conversation must be aware of the recording.
Outside court, Broderick, who was interrogating Masters before he left him alone to speak to his father, said he's sure Masters didn't know he was being recorded, but isn't sure if Clyde Masters knew.
When asked directly if the police may have illegally recorded the two, he said, "I think that's something we need to look at."
Regardless of the legality of the recording, special prosecutor Mike Goodbee said the transcript of the conversation should have been provided to Masters' lawyers before his 1999 trial.
"I think the statements of the defendant need to be turned over during discovery," he said. "Period."
Throughout the lengthy exchange, Masters’ father, Clyde, repeatedly tells Masters that he can’t “help” him by hiring an attorney unless Masters confesses to the murder.
“See, I can’t go get a public defender or nothing else until after you tell me something,” Clyde Masters said at one point. Later, he added: “That way they can also help me probably in setting up for one, you know, one of those attorneys. Cause I got to get something like that. I can’t afford to hire a lawyer or attorney. … So we have to get a public one.”
Suspects are always allowed to have attorneys present during police questioning. Masters was read his Miranda rights by Detective Hal Dean when the interrogation began, which specifies, “You have the right to talk to an attorney and have him present with you while you are being questioned; if you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning.”
Clyde Masters didn’t seem to be aware of his son’s rights.
“If you did it, buddy, you’re going to have to say something so I can get some damned help,” Clyde Masters said.
“But I didn’t do it,” Masters replied.
The conversation was tape recorded in a police interrogation room and took place when Broderick left the room briefly. Masters had been interrogated for hours by that point.
He asked his father if he’d slept the night of Feb. 10, 1987. Clyde Masters answered that he didn’t sleep “that sound” but said he didn’t hear the dogs barking. He then later said he couldn’t remember if he heard the dogs or not because they barked so often.
Clyde Masters also said that the police had taken things from his room but that he didn’t know what. He said whatever it was may point toward Masters’ involvement in the crime. He said he would authorize police to take anything they wanted.
“The only thing I want is to get it settled so we can get it straightened out,” Clyde said. “I’ll sign to let them take anything they want to out of your room now. I’ll tell you that right now. … And I want them to get anything in the house.”
Throughout the conversation, Masters maintains his innocence, even when asked directly by his father. In fact, at one point Masters said, “None of them believe me. I’m not even sure you believe me.”
At one point, Clyde Masters spoke for a long time, referencing his own father and how he would let his sons “rot” in jail if they did anything wrong, but that Clyde wouldn’t abandon Masters like that. He said he was talking to Masters as his friend as much as his dad.
Masters, interrogated for more than five hours by that point, only replied: “I wish there was some way I could get some sleep.”
Clyde replied with a statement that turned out to be prophetic.
“Can’t get no sleep until this is all over, bud.”
Fort Collins Now