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Monday, June 29, 2009

Federal Judge: "This Case Directly Implicates Our Judicial System..." - Questions Immunity

Judge: Masters' Attorneys Can Question Police, Not Prosecutors
Immunity Issues Still To Be Resolved
ABC News 7 News, DENVER, by Lance Hernandez, 7NEWS Reporter - June 25, 2009

DENVER, CO -- "It's time to get this case moving." With those words, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Babcock granted in part, and denied in part, a motion to stay proceedings in Tim Masters' lawsuit against officers and former officers of the Fort Collins Police Department, and prosecutors and former prosecutors in the Larimer County District Attorney's Office. Masters was wrongly convicted in 1999 of killing Peggy Hetrick in 1987 and leaving her partially clothed body in a vacant field behind his home. According to the coroner, the victim's left nipple and a portion of her external genitalia had been carefully excised postmortem with a very sharp instrument, most likely a scalpel. There were no signs of sexual assault. There was no direct physical evidence linking the then- 15-year-old Masters to the crime, but he was still convicted. After spending 10 years behind bars, Masters' conviction was thrown out after sophisticated DNA tests pointed to another culprit. Masters filed a federal lawsuit last December, alleging prosecutorial and police corruption and misconduct, manufacture of evidence, destruction of evidence, hiding of evidence and of being dishonest with courts. Babcock's ruling allows Masters' attorneys to proceed with questioning of police, but not prosecutors, at least not yet. The judge said the Supreme Court gives prosecutors "a great deal" of immunity from civil lawsuits. "The Supreme Court has developed an appetite recently for immunity issues," Babcock told attorneys. "Should the Supreme Court be hungry, there's plenty to feed on in this case." Babcock said this is going to be a hard case. "This case directly implicates our judicial system and how an accused was dealt with and treated in that system," Babcock said. "(Tim Masters) has a significant interest in as expeditious a resolution in this case as can be afforded him." Babcock set a hearing for Aug. 20 to settle the "complicated" prosecutor immunity issues. Plaintiff's attorney David Lane told 7NEWS, "I would ultimately like to see that everyone who has corrupted the criminal justice system is dealt with justly and that Tim Masters gets a fair and just compensation for a loss that there can be no fair and just compensation for." Attorney David Wymore said Masters is experiencing some serious stress disorders from being locked up for something he didn't do. "He's working through those issues without psychological help," Wymore said, "because it was a psychologist who helped convict him." Masters did not attend the Thursday hearing, opting instead to spend the day with his parents. "It's his birthday," Wymore said. "Little things like that are very important to him." "After what’s happened to him, he's afraid to step into a courtroom," Lane said. "He's reluctant to leave his house and worries that he’ll be arrested again for any little thing." When asked if Masters would consider settling out of court, Wymore told 7NEWS, "Tim wants a trial. Tim is anxious to see a trial. I'd like to see a trial."

The defendants named in the lawsuit include:
  • Terence A. Gilmore, Former Deputy DA – 8th Judicial District
  • Jolene C. Blair, Former Deputy DA – 8th Judicial District
  • James Broderick, Lieutenant - Fort Collins Police Dept.
  • Marsha Reed, Former Detective – Fort Collins Police Dept.
  • Dennis V. Harrison, Chief of Police – Fort Collins Police Dept.
  • City of Fort Collins – Municipality
  • Stuart VanMeveren, Former DA – 8th Judicial District
  • Larry Abrahamson, District Attorney – 8th Judicial District
  • 8th Judicial District of Colorado
Previous Stories:
  • June 25, 2009: Judge Allows Wrongly Imprisoned Man To Press Claim
  • February 11, 2009: Ex-Prosecutor Doubts Hettrick Slaying Will Be Solved
  • January 21, 2009: Detective: Crime Fingerprints Didn't Belong To Masters
  • November 19, 2008: Police Clear Investigator In Tim Masters Case
  • October 21, 2008: Tim Masters Files Federal Lawsuit
  • September 9, 2008: Judges Censured For Role In Masters Case
  • August 2, 2008: Access To Evidence Slows 1987 Murder Investigation
  • July 20, 2008: Masters Picks Up Life After Wrongful Imprisonment
  • July 8, 2008: No Criminal Charges Against Officer In Overturned Murder Case
  • May 2, 2008: Investigation Into Police Officer On Masters' Case Delayed
  • April 30, 2008: Bracelet May Hold Clues To Killer's Identity
  • March 19, 2008: DNA Laws Likely To Change
  • January 25, 2008: DA To Dismiss All Charges Against Masters
  • January 22, 2008: Word Of The Day 'Freedom', Says Master
  • January 22, 2008: Tim Masters Now A Free Man
  • January 22, 2008: Family Eager To See Masters
  • January 21, 2008: Focus Shifts To Investigators In Masters Case
  • January 19, 2008: Masters Says He Awaits Release From Jail
  • January 19, 2008: New DNA Evidence Means New Trial For Tim Masters
  • November 9, 2007: Report: Doubts Over 1999 Colorado Murder Conviction
  • August 24, 2007: Man Convicted In Woman's Slaying Claims Doctor Responsible

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