Attorney General Coffman files motion to stay lawsuit in exoneration case
DENVER — Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman announced on Wednesday that her office has filed a Motion to Stay proceedings in the civil lawsuit filed by Clarence Moses-EL against the State of Colorado in 2017. Moses-EL is requesting nearly $2 million of taxpayer dollars under Colorado’s Exoneration Act, § 13-65-101, et seq., C.R.S. This case is not a criminal re-trial.
Moses-EL’s lawsuit is currently set for trial in Denver District Court in February of 2019. Attorney General Coffman’s legal team recently met with Attorney General-Elect Phil Weiser to brief him on the Office’s ongoing defense of the case. Attorney General- Elect Weiser indicated he strongly favors settling the claim when he takes office in January. In light of this information, Attorney General Coffman has requested a stay of proceedings to avoid further trauma to the victim and to halt the expenditure of taxpayer funds for trial preparation.
Over the last year, a team of state attorneys and investigators has thoroughly and independently reviewed the evidence and interviewed witnesses in the underlying criminal case against Moses-EL. The team also has spoken at length with the victim who, over the last 30 years, has consistently identified Moses- EL as her attacker.
The victim and Moses-EL lived in the same neighborhood and knew each other prior to the assault. Following the attack, the victim identified Moses-EL as the person who assaulted and raped her. She survived but suffered six broken bones on the right side of her face, and permanently lost partial vision in her right eye.
Moses-EL was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to 48 years in prison. His motion for a new trial and multiple attempts at post-conviction relief failed until 25 years later. In 2016, after an alleged alternate suspect came forward, and after the DNA evidence was inadvertently destroyed by the Denver Police Department, Moses-EL was granted a retrial and ultimately acquitted.
Under Colorado’s Exoneration Act, only those individuals who can establish by clear and convincing evidence that they are actually innocent of the crimes charged can recover compensation. The law requires individuals seeking compensation to meet this high legal standard because it recognizes that acquittal of a crime is not the same as establishing actual innocence, and because compensation under the statute is intended to be a rare occurrence.
After conducting an extensive case review, Attorney General Coffman and her team do not believe that Moses-EL meets the statutory requirements for compensation established by the Colorado General Assembly. Much of the evidence the Attorney General’s team reviewed supports the victim’s account and calls into question Moses-EL’s innocence. During Moses-EL’s motions for a new trial, the court found that the unfortunate destruction of DNA evidence was not done in bad faith. Given the totality of the evidence when viewed under the legal standard, Attorney General Coffman did not believe settlement was appropriate and was prepared to defend the State at trial.
“I am profoundly saddened for the victim in this case and I thank her for the bravery she has shown over the last thirty years,” said Attorney General Coffman.
“Unfortunately our justice system asks so much of victims; they are subject to intense and invasive scrutiny and must repeat over and over the painful details of what happened to them. The victim in this case has continued to demonstrate incredible strength. She, too, is disadvantaged by the destroyed DNA evidence as it just as easily could have confirmed that Moses-EL was her attacker.
"Sadly, Moses-EL may now walk away with a large amount of cash while the victim’s struggle continues. I offer her my heartfelt sympathies.”