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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.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Attorneys: Free Masters Now

I wonder if we looked this deeply into all the cases that have resulted in convictions by people who always maintain their innocence, how much corruption and shoddy work we'd find.

Attorneys for Tim Masters demanded his immediate release following the admission Wednesday that critical information was withheld from defense lawyers when he was convicted in 1999.

And the lead police investigator in the case, Lt. Jim Broderick, acknowledged Thursday that mistakes may have been made. Broderick declined to comment on the specific violations.

"Mistakes may have been made. But what I think is critical is whether there was any malice behind it," Broderick said. "There isn't a homicide case I've worked on where there weren't mistakes made."

But in a filing Thursday, Masters' attorneys said there is "no relevant reason to continue" hearings on his bid for a new trial because every day is another day he wrongly spends behind bars. They have said it doesn't matter why evidence was withheld.

"Given the undeniably exculpatory substance of the information which the state concedes was not provided to Tim Masters before trial, the court should grant Tim Masters immediate relief," his attorneys said in their filing. "There is no reason to wait until the trial prosecutors have been afforded a soapbox."

Special prosecutors on Wednesday concluded that several pieces of evidence that could have helped Masters' defense were never turned over to lawyers by police.

Both sides said, however, that the judge hearing the case will decide if any mistakes made warrant granting Masters a new trial. And they say Masters is unlikely to go free for at least several more weeks.

Special prosecutors investigating Masters' conviction say they first want to put the original prosecutors - now district Judges Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair - and possibly Broderick on the stand to answer questions about why information was not turned over to the original defense team. That testimony could take more than a week.

The violations generally include information that was known to police officers but that was not turned over to defense lawyers and prosecutors, including consultations with experts.

Hearing from Gilmore and Blair about how that information might have changed their presentation of their case will help the judge decide whether having that information violated Masters' right to a fair trial.

"That's the very issue the judge is being asked to decide," said Adams County District Attorney and special prosecutor Don Quick. "The judge needs to hear from the prosecutors on that same issue."

Quick said he's frustrated that Masters' attorneys have assailed Gilmore and Blair for not making all information in the case available to the original defense team but are now pushing to free Masters without hearing the full story.

Quick said overturning a jury's verdict is not done lightly, especially since the verdict was upheld by both the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court.

"If you are going to override what they did, you need to do it based on all the facts," Quick said. "A jury convicted in this case, and two courts upheld it. If we're going to overturn that, we better be thorough; we better be right."

Masters' new attorneys argue that new evidence uncovered in their pursuit of a new trial is so significant that Masters should be freed on bond immediately.

Hearings are set to resume Jan. 22.

The Coloradoan