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 over 7,000 individual members and 112 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.
The Denver district attorney's decision not to pursue criminal charges against deputies involved in the jailhouse death of a homeless minister looks like a well- reasoned examination of the facts.
But without seeing the video footage that DA Mitch Morrissey so frequently refers to in his assessment, as well as other evidence, it is impossible for anyone else to make an independent judgment.
Nothing short of a full public release of the surveillance video and other material has any chance of answering questions that Booker's family and many in the public have about this tragic event.
Mayor John Hickenlooper issued a statement saying the video would not be released until an internal affairs investigation is complete. Witnesses to the event, which took place more than nine weeks ago, are still being interviewed, he said. The investigation could take months.
Questions about Booker's death already have lingered for months, since the 56-year-old man was taken into custody on July 9 on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia. After getting into a scuffle with a booking deputy and ignoring her orders, deputies shocked him with a Taser, put him in a carotid "sleeper hold" and laid atop him in an effort to get control of him. He later stopped breathing.
The Denver coroner's office ruled Booker's death a homicide, meaning his death was caused by the actions of another person.
Morrissey's review is but one part of the process. In addition, there is the internal affairs investigation, and the sheriff's department, which runs the jail, will examine the events with oversight from the city's independent police monitor.
Morrissey had to decide whether there was evidence to support criminal charges. He contends there is not. But he goes further than that. "In fact, the deputies were justified in using the degree of force used which was reasonable, necessary and appropriate under the specific facts of this case," Morrissey wrote.
We look forward to the internal affairs and disciplinary proceedings on this count because we still find ourselves perplexed about certain details surrounding Booker's death.
For one, the coroner's report clearly says there is no video that shows what went on inside an isolation cell where Booker was ultimately taken.
Reportedly, he was left face down on the floor. His handcuffs were removed because he had stopped resisting, yet an officer kneeled on his back for 90 seconds to two minutes. Why? And when did medical staff check on him? Morrissey's report does not address these points.
Perhaps there is not evidence to criminally charge anyone for Booker's death. But certainly there are many questions that have yet to be answered about the events that unfolded that day in the city's jail.