“What was done in the dark”

After years of stonewalling Clarence Moses-EL’s innocence claim, Denver’s DA is trying to keep a confession in a 1987 rape case from coming to light.

“What was done in the dark”

“I really don’t know what to say to you,” began the letter, written in neat script on prison-issue loose leaf paper.

“But let’s start by bringing what was done in the dark into the light. I have a lot on my heart.”

The heavy-hearted writer, L.C. Jackson, was prosecuted by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s cold case unit for the 1992 rapes at gunpoint of a mother and her 9-year-old daughter. Jackson has been serving 135 years in Colorado’s prison system since his 2007 conviction.

The letter’s recipient: Clarence Moses-EL, who’s doing his 28th year behind bars on a different case — a 1987 rape and brutal beating of a woman in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. From the day of his arrest he has said he’s innocent.


L.C. Jackson, photo by Susan Greene


“It’s my truth. It’s the truth. And, sooner or later, it will set me free,” Moses-EL, 59, told The Colorado Independent in a recent prison interview.

Though Moses-EL and Jackson lived in the same housing project in the 1980s, and though Jackson has cycled in and out of the same corrections system where Moses-EL has been housed since his 1989 rape conviction, they’ve said they’ve met only once – more than a quarter century ago at the Denver County Jail, and only in passing.

Each was well aware of the other.

Jackson knew Moses-EL was, at that time, awaiting trial for the rape and beating of Jackson’s neighbor and acquaintaince – a case for which Moses-EL was sentenced to 48 years.

For his part, Moses-EL knew that Jackson was the first man the victim in his case told police attacked her. In fact, she named him several times until, a day and a half later, she changed her story to say Moses-EL’s identity came to her in a dream. What she didn’t mention is that in the weeks leading up to her attack she had been fighting with Moses-EL’s wife and vowed to “get back” at her.

The victim’s dream was the only evidence linking Moses-EL to the attack for which Jackson was never questioned as a suspect. Yet it was enough, amazingly, for a jury to convict him.

Moses EL

Clarence Moses-EL, by Susan Greene

“A dream,” Moses-EL told this reporter in a 2007 Denver Post interview. “I’m in here because of a dream.”

This afternoon, in Denver District Court. L.C. Jackson is scheduled to testify about what he says really happened that night 28 years ago.

Since sending his letter to Moses-EL in 2012, Jackson has admitted to having had rough sex with and beating up the victim in Moses-EL’s case at the exact time and the exact place of her attack. Confessing after all these years, he has told lawyers and investigators, is helping him come clean with his life. It’s a relief, he has said, finally to bring to light what was “done in the dark.”

But Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has long tried to make sure that what was done in the dark stays shrouded in darkness.

Even though Morrissey has touted his office’s role in solving the cold case mother-daughter rapes for which it won convictions and life sentences against Jackson, he has asserted – falsely, several documents show – that the victim in Moses-EL’s case never named Jackson as her attacker.

Morrissey also has defended his office’s and Denver police’s involvement in destroying all the DNA evidence in Moses-EL’s case – truth-telling evidence that could have freed him more than two decades ago.

After Moses-EL won two court orders and raised $1,000 from fellow inmates to have a rape kit, bedding and the victim’s clothing genetically tested in 1993, police had packaged the items in a box they marked “DO NOT DESTROY.” Then, before the box could be sent to the lab, they threw it in a dumpster.

The lead Denver Police detective on the case said before his death that he had reservations about Moses-EL’s involvement.

“What is it about Denver – convicting a man on nothing but a dream? A dream? Really?

What’s more, the details of Jackson’s 1992 rapes of the mother and daughter are remarkably similar to the details in the attack in the Moses-EL case.

“It is long past the time for the truth to come out,” Gail Johnson, one of Moses-EL’s lawyers, wrote in a court filing.

Since being made aware in December 2013 of Jackson’s confession, Morrissey’s office has refused to reopen the case. During that time, Moses-EL’s mother, Eloise Moses, died without having seen her eldest son walk free.

For the past several months, Morrissey’s office has tried to quash new evidence from coming forward in Moses-EL’s post-conviction appeal proceedings. It has said testimony about blood evidence from the scene more likely being Jackson’s than Moses-EL’s isn’t relevant. And Morrissey’s chief deputy, Bonnie Benedetti, has argued that expert testimony debunking the credibility of the victim’s dream identification — as well as other witnesses’ testimonies — would be a waste of the court’s time.


Bent County Correctional Facility, Photo by Susan Greene


Most notably, Benedetti has tried to silence Jackson from testifying today by urging him to lawyer-up and take the Fifth to avoid prosecution, even though he’s already serving more than a life sentence and Benedetti has said in court that the statute of limitations already has tolled. Benedetti has said that in an interview with her, Jackson recanted his confession.

Morrissey, it seems, is unwilling to acknowledge not only that his office may have wrongly prosecuted Moses-EL, but also that Morrissey himself has for nine years willfully refused to reopen Moses-EL’s case since it became clear Jackson’s pattern of violent rape warrants a new investigation.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” his office told The Independent Tuesday, it’s refusing comment.

“This Mitch Morrissey is doing everything he can to cover his behind and hide the truth in this case,” said David Reese, 47, who has flown from Baltimore for today’s hearing in support of the brother who was ripped from his family half a lifetime ago.

“What is it about Denver – convicting a man on nothing but a dream? A dream? Really?

“What’s happened here is a nightmare. It’s a nightmare this man Morrissey and this city need to own up to.”

We’ll keep updating this story at www.coloradoindependent.com. For more background about Moses-EL’s case, see The Colorado Independent’s exclusive coverage.


Top Photo: Moses EL, photo by Susan Greene


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About the Author

Susan Greene

A recovering newspaper journalist and Pulitzer finalist. Her criminal justice reporting includes “Trashing the Truth,” with Miles Moffeit, and “The Gray Box.”
susan@coloradoindependent.com | 720-295-8006 | @greeneindenver


  1. Tmoses on said:

    I was present at my uncles hearing July 2015 and I listen to the defense attorney and the DA. Let me just say this, if you are an individual in your right state of mind that holds an official job title and you have the power to make things happen. Read about Clarence Moses-El convicted of a rape crime in 1987. Pay close attention to how he was convicted of this crime that he is now serving 48 years and has been in jail for the last 28/29 years of his life. When you are done reading in disbelief, because you will not believe the nightmare my uncle Mr Moses-El been living the last 28-29 years of his. The worst part is the DA knows she has no supporting evidence No evidence at All that will convict Mr. Moses-El in a new trail. It’s hard for public officials “Adults” to admit to wrong doing. Evening after those pupils are sworn in to uphold the law, asking the public to “Trust” he/she to protect and serve, equal justice for all. Listening to all evidence from both sides and not to mention having an individual that admit to this crime you would think this would be an open and shut case? Think again

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