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.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Focus Now On The Prosecutors

If Tim has no recourse in this travesty then there is something wrong with the law. "Mere negligence " doesn't put someone in prison for ten years. Lying is not "making a mistake". Perjury is not "making a mistake". Those who deliberately didn't follow the law they are supposed to uphold have to be accountable.

Focus turns to investigators in Masters case
Backers say mistakes not malicious; critics disagree

Friday's recommendation by special prosecutors to free Tim Masters from his life sentence in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick means the police and prosecutors who helped put him behind bars may never take the witness stand to explain their roles in the case.

But the Weld County District Attorney's Office is investigating perjury and eavesdropping allegations leveled at Fort Collins police Lt. Jim Broderick, and at least one legal observer says that investigation will influence possible next steps against two sitting Larimer District Court judges.

Backers of Broderick and judges Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair are cautioning against a rush to judgment and say outside investigations by two different agencies should run their course first. In 1999, Gilmore and Blair were the prosecutors in the case against Masters. Critics, including Masters' defense team, say it's clear Broderick, Blair and Gilmore railroaded Masters during that trial.

"It's been pretty obvious ... that some members of the public have lost confidence," said Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, who knows all three personally but has no direct connection to the case.

He added: "I think you have to give Broderick the benefit of the doubt. But let's not convict Jim Broderick based on a mistake that may have been made. People make mistakes, but whatever mistakes were made certainly weren't done intentionally. Knowing those individuals, I just don't believe that to be the case. But if the mistakes were made, there's probably no one beating them up more than themselves."

Masters' current and original defense teams have both attacked Broderick, claiming he illegally taped a conversation between Masters and his father and perjured himself on the witness stand during Masters' trial. Broderick vehemently rejects that allegation.

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck has been asked by his Larimer County counterpart, Larry Abrahamson, to investigate those charges.

Buck on Saturday declined to comment substantively on his investigation or the Masters case as a whole.

"We will look very carefully at the allegations that have been made by the defense attorneys in the case," Buck said.

Broderick, the lead Fort Collins police investigator at the time of Masters' 1999 conviction, is now a lieutenant in charge of the department's Internal Affairs division.

Broderick's boss, Police Chief Dennis Harrison, said it's too early to comment on what changes might be made in either personnel or procedure, if any.

"I just don't know what all the evidence is yet. We need to evaluate the information we have gotten ... and ask 'where does that direct us?'" Harrison said. "This isn't standing on a point from 20 years ago, 10 years ago."

Broderick in an interview with the Coloradoan early this month acknowledged that mistakes get made in every homicide investigation, but he said there was no malice on his part. He remained on vacation and unavailable Saturday.

Blair and Gilmore, the prosecution team who presented the Masters case to a jury and won a conviction based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence, are now Larimer County District Court judges. They have repeatedly declined to discuss the case, citing Masters' bid for a retrial and their potential position as witnesses.

Any further investigation into alleged misconduct by Blair and Gilmore should be put on hold until Buck finishes his investigation, Fort Collins defense attorney Bob Rand said.

"I think the Weld County investigation will answer a majority of the questions the public has about what went wrong in the case," Rand said.

Although the case could make police and prosecutors vulnerable to civil lawsuits, governmental immunity could make that a difficult proposition, experts said.

Suing Broderick and the police department would be difficult, but it would be even harder to sue Blair and Gilmore, said George Blau, a Fort Collins attorney and professor of psychology and criminal justice at the University of Wyoming. Blau has attended many of the hearings in the case.

Governmental agencies and employees have immunity except in very narrow exceptions, Blau said. A provision of the federal Civil Rights Act allows individuals to sue police and prosecutors for prosecutorial misconduct, but it must be shown that there was intent to do harm, Blau said.

"Mere negligence is insufficient to maintain a lawsuit," he said.

Removing sitting judges can be difficult, but there are a few avenues.

Judges come up for retention votes every six years and are also subject to impeachment proceedings, said Jon Sarche, a spokesman for the state court system.

Gilmore and Blair are up for retention votes in 2010.

Attorneys in Colorado are governed by the Attorney Regulation Council, which investigates complaints against attorneys. Judges are licensed attorneys.

Those investigations are launched when someone files a complaint against an attorney and, if they are not dismissed, could result in censure, suspension or disbarment, Sarche said.



Anonymous said...

Why are those responsible for the errors and mistakes of the conviction of Tim Masters, be allowed to investigate themselves?? DNA evidence speaks for itself. When liars and people perjure themselves, wheather they are police, or prosecutors they should be punished by the same laws they used to violate Masters constitutional right to a fair trial. Punishment is the only way Coloardo will stop prosecutorial misconduct. We, the public are hearing of other cases of prosecutorial misconduct here in Denver as well. Isnt it time for either, the legislature or the governor to step in and clean up the mess'es that exist thruout the Larimor and the Denver prosecutors office's???

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the public and the the whole judicial system from the cops to the attorneys on BOTH sides and the prison system view the judicial system as a game. Repeatedly each element of this system views themselves as above the law, from the district attorneys walking their dog in the park without a leash to corrupt cops and prison guards to rich attorneys, private prisons, and judges who look the other way.

Anonymous said...