19 October 2010

Colorado Judges To Think Twice About

If you are going cast an informed vote on judicial retention this year, ignore "Clear The Bench," a politically motivated group that wants voters to boot Colorado Supreme Court judges who don't toe their hard right line is not the place to for guidance, even if their interpretations of Colorado law are fair.

The two judges least deserving your retention vote are Larimer District Judges Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair. Unlike any of the other judges seeking your retention vote this year, they have each been publicly censured for unethical conduct as attorneys in connection with their unprofessional conduct. The two men failed to disclose exculpatory evidence of which they were aware to the defense in the case, as required by the United States Constitution, in the prosecution of Tim Masters, which led to the wrongful conviction for murder.

Gilmore and Blair prosecuted Masters in 1999 for the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick in Fort Collins. A jury convicted Masters of murder, but a visiting judge overturned the conviction in 2008, saying new DNA testing pointed to another suspect.

Their unethical conduct wasn't determined until after their respective appointments to the bench.

If there is ever a reason to not retain a judge, it is the fact that a judge has been found by the court system itself to have engaged in unethical conduct not known at the time that the judge was appointed. This certainly casts doubt on their fitness to be judges. If the findings had been made before they were appointed, they would probably never have made it onto the bench, indeed, probably wouldn't have even applied for the jobs.

There is some issue over campaign finance issues in this retention election, but that doesn't change the merits of the question. These judges in Larimer County, and not those on the Colorado Supreme Court, are the ones who should not be retained.

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