Oct 282010
 
Authors: Erin Udell

In 1999 Timothy Masters was wrongfully convicted of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick.

Now, 11 years later, the Committee for Judicial Justice is campaigning against the retention of the 8th Judicial District Judges Jolene Blair and Terence Gilmore, prosecutors in the original Masters trial.

Masters served almost 10 years of his life sentence before a judge overruled the decision in 2008 after tests revealed no trace of his DNA on Hettrick’s body.

In 2008, Judges Blair and Gilmore were censured by an arm of the Colorado Supreme Court for not making sure that all evidence collected by police was turned in to Masters’ defense team.

“They prosecuted the case without requesting all of the evidence,” said Sandy Lemberg, a Larimer County resident and spokesman for the Committee of Judicial Justice. “I mean, putting somebody away for 10 years on false charges is just not professional legal conduct.”

Their actions, according to the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation “directly impaired the proper operation of the criminal justice system.”

“To believe that they did not know that the evidence existed and that they were negligent in their efforts is disingenuous,” said Erik G. Fischer, an attorney from Masters’ original defense team. “They did nothing to make sure we had that information because they knew that they could not even proceed with the case.”

Despite being censured by the Supreme Court, both Blair and Gilmore were recommended by the Eighth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance to be retained.

Both judges, who were appointed to the District Court of the 8th Judicial District in 2001, were called “outstanding” after being reviewed by the Commission.

The Commission interviewed attorneys and non-attorneys, conducted a public hearing and made courtroom observations before finding the judges suitable for retention by a 10-0 vote.

“It was a unanimous decision,” said Judge Jolene Blair. “We were very pleased with that.”

According to the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation website, the Commission is aware of the community’s concern surrounding Blair and Gilmore’s public censure but believes that, because of judicial performance, the community is well served by both judges remaining in their positions.

Fischer, however, considers their mistake unacceptable.

“Had this information come to light before they had become judges they would have been censured and would never have become judges,” Fischer said. “Judges who have participated in denying Tim Masters his constitutional rights should not be sitting in judgment of our police department regarding our citizens constitutional rights.”

The Committee for Judicial Justice was originally formed by a small group of Larimer County residents after Masters’ release in 2008. In 2010 the Committee engaged in their campaign to oppose the retention of Judges Blair and Gilmore.

“We see that they adopt a point of view and then they set out to prove it. They’re biased from the get go,” said Sandy Lemberg, a Larimer County resident and spokesman for the Committee for Judicial Justice. “As prosecutors that may be their job, but as judges it’s just absolutely unacceptable.”

City Council Beat Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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