Imagine being tried and convicted in 1999 for a murder you did not commit. Now imagine those nine years, five months and twelve days you spend in a Colorado state penitentiary for that murder. It happened in Colorado and while the subject of this post is not about the murders, you should read about Tim Masters' case have so you fully appreciate the anger I harbor toward Veterans Affairs, Sen. Mark Udall and his staff, and others who are failing to act.
One of the best summaries of the case can be found on a site I don't always give much credence to, Wikipedia. To really get your blood pressure up, read the story here.
In 1999, based mostly on Tim Masters' teenage drawings and a knife collection, Masters was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder. Though some jurors had doubts about his guilt, jury members cited his drawings and writings as compelling evidence against him.
After attorneys for Masters and special prosecutors in the case discovered what could be unethical and illegal activities in the case, including missing DNA, special prosecutors assigned to his appeal recommended overturning Masters' sentence as a result of the DNA findings. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation confirmed the DNA results.
On Jan. 22, 2008 a Colorado judge vacated Masters' conviction and ordered him released immediately. He's been busy trying to rebuild his life after almost ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Should be the end of the story, shouldn't it? It actually gets worse.
Tim spent eight years in the Navy. He worked as an aircraft mechanic, including a stint with Learjet where he also worked as an aircraft mechanic.
Those eight years started when he was 18 (he is now 38) and included paying $100 a month into the GI Bill program. According to Susan Greene, a columnist for the Denver Post who brought this story to light in her Sept. 24 column, Masters would be entitled to approximately $30,000 under the GI Bill that he could use to get an education, a trade skill or other benefits to help him get a job.
You have to apply for those benefits within ten years after leaving the service. Tim Masters was honorably discharged in 1997 but his time limit expired while he was in prison for the murder conviction. Colorado inmates do not have access to GI benefits.