July 10, 2008

"Misfeasance not malfeasance"

Detective won't face charges in Tim Masters case

A special prosecutor has decided not to file criminal charges for perjury or illegal eavesdropping against the Colorado detective who spearheaded the investigation of 15-year-old Timothy Masters for the murder of Peggy Hettrick, a case about which I have blogged extensively (click here for my past posts).

You will recall that Lt. James Broderick was convinced of the boy's guilt despite the absence of any physical evidence linking young Masters to the crime. He continued to pursue him for years, finally hiring prominent forensic psychologist Reid Meloy to render an opinion based on Masters' personal sketches. That opinion helped garner a conviction; after a decade in prison, Masters was recently freed based on DNA evidence.

Prosecutor Ken Buck said that although he uncovered "several flaws" during his "limited investigation," he did not believe that Broderick engaged in deliberate criminal conduct, nor was there a "reasonable likelihood" that a jury would convict the detective at trial.

A separate investigation into whether prosecutors in the case violated professional standards is due to conclude soon. That investigation is by the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation. The former prosecutors, Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, are both now judges.

The Colorodoan quotes one former police investigator in the case, Linda Wheeler-Holloway, as saying that the prosecutor's decision is no surprise.

"People didn't play fair. By not telling the whole story, leaving things incomplete, that kind of skewed things in their favor…. There was a lot of faults committed in a lot of arenas that led to the wrongful conviction of Tim Masters."

Writer Pat Hartman, who has an extensive blog on the case entitled "Free Tim Masters Because," has a scathing denunciation of the prosecutor’s decision.

"This wrapup of Broderick's involvement is inadequate and unsatisfactory. It's like watching an elephant be pregnant for months and then give birth to a mouse. Now there's supposed to be an internal [police] investigation…. With this tepid whitewash as precedent, it’s not difficult to foresee the results of that investigation.”

The prosecutor's 11-page report is here. The Coloradoan and the Denver Post have news coverage.

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