Denver Mayor Hancock, how much is a life worth?

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat’s a life worth, Mr. Mayor Michael Hancock? By your latest legal maneuvering, it’s apparently “0.” I don’t think so.

Given the news that your administration is trying to cut the jury award in the Marvin Booker civil case by more than two-thirds, it pains me to see that you continue refusing to take responsibility for your rogue sherrifs deputies. Your decision to seek a radical reduction in the amount awarded to the Booker family blatantly disrespects the federal jury’s decision.  

amazing grace I watched your gang of lawyers pick the jurors who would hear the federal civil rights trial about the killing of a black, homeless, sickly and drug-using street preacher at the hands of deputies at Denver’s jail.  

Your legal team seemed pleased with the jury when it chose an all-white, middle class group of Coloradans to decide the case. You all seemed confident – cocky, in fact – about your chances coming out on top in trying to defend a killing that wasn’t defensible.

But after that same jury sat through three weeks of painful, contradictory testimony, it came to its own conclusion. Your attorneys got shellacked by the Booker family’s lawyers who not only proved there was blood on your deputies’ hands but also pointed out apparent corruption among sheriffs officials who covered up key evidence – including having given police homicide investigators the wrong Taser rather than the one used on Marvin Booker. If a civilian killed someone or covered up evidence about a killing in this manner, he or she would have been criminally charged. None of the uniformed officers involved in Marvin Booker’s homicide was prosecuted. Instead, justice was meted out in a civil trial in which the jury decided your city owes the Booker family $4.6 million. Rather than accepting that decision, you’re seeking a bargain-basement award.
Denver has settled several use-of-force cases out of court. There’s one glaring difference between the Booker case and some of those cases – including those of Jamal Hunter and Emily Rice, which settled for $3.5 million for $3 million, respectively. That difference is homelessness. Marvin Booker didn’t have a fixed address. With your attempt to slash the jury award in his case, it’s clear your administration has deemed his life to have been less valuable than the others.

Apparently homeless people don’t really count in the city you’re running. After all, it was your City Council that criminalized homelessness under your first term. You say you care about the citizens of Denver. And, as an ordained Baptist deacon, you’re supposed to have a greater duty to God to be compassionate and fair to his people. Continuing to drag out proceedings in Marvin Booker’s case while his aged, Ill mother enters a fifth year awaiting final justice for her son shows no compassion, fairness or responsibility. None.

Mr. Mayor, let this community and the Booker family heal. Pay for the failings of your sheriffs department. Face the fact that what the city did to Marvin Booker was a savage atrocity. Own it. Get it done with. And let’s move forward.

Terrence H. (“Pastor Big T”) Hughes
New Covenant Christian Church
Alpha and Omega Ministries
”One is too many!”

Edit note: Marvin Booker came from a family of ministers and was supported in Denver by several black clergy members, many of whom were his friends.

[ Top photo: Marvin Booker. ]


  1. Pastor Hughes,

    Currently another, recent victim’s family has gotten no justice after their son, Ryan Ronquillo was shot to death while they looked on in horror during a funeral they were attending. None of the officers involved was put on administrative leave, and the District Attorney decided, unsurprisingly, that the police did nothing wring in killing this unarmed man.

    I am grateful Marvin Booker’s civil trial concluded as it did and that so much of the black faith community came out in support of his family. Many from the social justice community also came out in their support, backing the voices of community leaders calling for justice. It is with this success in mind that I call on you to consider the case of Ryan Ronquillo, to reach out to his family and help alleviate their suffering g with some of your loving concern.

    Darren O’Connor

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