Colorado Innocence Project Cases

Timothy Masters                   
The  most famous wrongful conviction case in Colorado involves Timothy Masters.  Masters was a 15-year-old boy in 1987, who lived with his dad in Fort Collins  near the spot where, on February 11th, the body of a Woman named  Peggy Hetrick was found. Hetrick had been sexually molested and murdered. The  police questioned Masters in connection with the case, but neither he nor  anyone else was charged.

Masters  went on to graduate from high school and join the Navy. In 1992, investigators  contacted and questioned him again but, again, no charges were filed.  Investigators kept the case open and in 1998, after learning about research  into “sexual homicides” charges including first-degree murder were brought  against Masters.

Masters  maintained his innocence throughout his trial, but was convicted, and his  convictions were affirmed on appeal. Masters contacted the Colorado Innocence Project but his case was referred to the Office of Alternate  Defense Counsel (ADC), since he was eligible for a lawyer at state expense. The  ADC appointed Maria Liu and David Wymore to get involved in the case and those  two, along with investigators and other interested parties, began post-conviction  proceedings.

The  post-conviction lawyers uncovered evidence that the police had not provided to  the original defense team all of the information that should have been  provided, that certain alternate suspects had not been properly investigated,  that one or more of the prosecution’s expert witnesses had been given  inaccurate or incomplete information, that local prosecutors may have been  involved in some of this improper behavior and other problems with the original  prosecution. A special prosecutor was appointed and when a new method of DNA  testing revealed that someone other than Masters had been in contact with the  victim in a fashion consistent with that of her murderer, the special  prosecutor conceded that Masters’ conviction should be vacated.

Masters  was released from prison on January 22, 2008. On January 25th, the  charges against him were dismissed. The case remains unsolved. On February 16,  2010, Masters received a settlement of $4.1 million from Larimer County to  settle his suit against the County and the two prosecutors who prosecuted him  at trial. Master’s civil suit against various other authorities – including the  City of Fort Collins - is still pending.

A timeline  of the entire case, with links to the contemporaneous articles, was created  by the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

A CNN summary of  the case was written shortly after Mr. Masters was released from prison.

Tim Kennedy                    
On May 29, 2009, Tim Kennedy walked out of jail after  spending 14 years behind bars for what he maintains was a wrongful conviction  in the 1991 execution-style shooting death of a Colorado Springs couple. A jury  convicted Kennedy in 1997 on charges that he killed 15-year-old runaway  Jennifer Carpenter and her boyfriend and legal guardian, Steve  Staskiewicz. 

Kennedy was sentenced to two life terms in prison and his  appeal was denied. When Kennedy contacted the Colorado Innocence Project, his case was referred to the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel, and the  ADC appointed John Dicke and Kathleen Carlson to represent him. Hard work by  these lawyers and their support team uncovered significant and important new  evidence. Kennedy was granted a new trial in April 2009 after Judge Thomas Kane  was presented with new evidence, including DNA tests that showed that another  man's DNA was on the sponge used as a gun silencer and on the two bodies.  Kennedy's DNA was not present in either sample.

El Paso County prosecutors have appealed Judge Kane’s  ruling.

The Colorado Springs Gazette was the  primary news agency covering the Kennedy case.

Clarence Moses-el                    
The CIP’s efforts on behalf of Clarence Moses-el have not  been successful. Convicted of a 1987 rape, Moses-el sought post-conviction  relief through the use of new DNA testing techniques. His post-conviction  lawyer was able to obtain a court order that the Denver Police Department  preserve biological material from the rape, but that material was subsequently  destroyed by the department. Lawrence “Trip” DeMuth of the law firm of Faegre  & Benson was unable to persuade the judge that the destruction of evidence  entitled Moses-el to relief, and legislative efforts to give him a new trial have  been unsuccessful.

Denver Post columnist Susan Greene addressed this  case, and the broader issue of the preservation of potentially exculpatory  DNA evidence in a January 3, 2010, article. Her column followed a series of articles in the Post relating to this issue.