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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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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tribune Opinion: Justice elusive for Tim Masters | Greeley Tribune

Tribune Opinion: Justice elusive for Tim Masters | Greeley Tribune
After spending 10 years in prison for a crime the courts now say he didn't commit, Timothy Masters' definition of justice has probably changed.

Masters, who spent 10 years in prison for the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick only to have the conviction overturned, did receive a settlement of about

$10 million after he sued both the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County for wrongful conviction. But city officials were careful not to take any of the blame for a shoddy investigation or prosecution that led to the conviction.

Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry released this statement after the settlement was announced: “The decision to settle this case does not mean the city agrees with Mr. Masters' allegations. To the contrary, we remain firmly convinced that Lt. (Jim) Broderick and the other officers who investigated the Peggy Hettrick homicide did so in good faith, using the best technologies and expert consultants that were available to them at the time. The decision to settle the case is strictly a business decision that reflects the financial realities and risks of proceeding to trial.”

Those comments strike us as less than genuine. If Fort Collins police acted in “good faith” in their investigation of Masters, then why did he receive

$10 million in settlements? We're just glad it's not Weld County taxpayers who will absorb this loss. But if we were a Larimer County taxpayer, we'd be disappointed, if not outraged, in a

$10 million settlement followed by a statement that it was strictly a “business decision.”

Somebody clearly did something wrong in the Masters investigation and prosecution — $10 million worth of wrong — and it's about time somebody stood up to take responsibility.

In a few months, Broderick will face multiple perjury charges after a grand jury found there was enough evidence to file criminal charges against the detective.

Most of the allegations against Broderick are disturbing. Broderick is accused of lying about having the FBI develop a profile for the alleged killer. He is accused of lying about the shoe prints found at the scene, which he said were linked to Masters and were instrumental in the conviction. He's also accused of trying to link the appearance of the victim to that of Masters' deceased mother, although few similarities existed.

Broderick's fate will ultimately be decided in court. But obviously someone, if not several people, screwed up this investigation. Much money has been spent on prosecuting this case, the numerous appeals and eventual overturning of the conviction, and, of course, the settlement paid to Masters.

Residents have a right to know what really happened in this case, which can undermine our faith in law enforcement and the judicial system. We have to believe that everyone involved in a prosecution — from the police officers to detectives to prosecutors and judges — are acting on the best information and not simply trying to get a conviction at all costs. We need to have some faith that justice will be served.

Obviously, that's not the case here.

Masters himself was guarded in his statement regarding charges against Broderick: “I'm not going to celebrate. But I am pleased to see a glimmer of hope that the man most directly responsible for my wrongful incarceration might be held accountable for his actions to some extent.”

We aren't celebrating either. This is a sad case, for Masters, for the family of Peggy Hettrick and for the residents of northern Colorado.

But we certainly hope for the day that someone — or many people — is held accountable for what has become a serious miscarriage of justice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How upsetting for the family.
Here is an article about an ex-offender who turned his life around by starting an internet company. Hope it helps some people.