28 years later: Denver D.A. tries to quash facts in apparent wrongful conviction case

A convicted rapist is making strong admissions in a Denver rape case for which an apparently innocent man is serving his 28th year in prison.

After three days of bombshell testimony in Denver District Court, the biggest mystery in the 1987 rape, beating and burglary in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood seems less about “who dunnit?” than why District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office continues trying to quash facts about what for years has looked like a wrongful conviction.

Judge Kandace Gerdes has two months to decide whether to grant a new trial to Clarence Moses-EL, who’s serving a 48-year sentence for a rape he has said, unwaveringly, he didn’t commit.

See also: “What was done in the dark

The following new evidence backs up his claim:

*That L.C. Jackson — the first man the victim named, repeatedly, as her assailant — is confessing to having sex with her and beating her up at the exact time and place of her attack.

Police and prosecutors never questioned Jackson as a suspect. Instead, they pursued Moses-EL based on the only evidence linking him to the case: The victim’s assertion a day and a half later that his identity came to her in a nightmare.

*That Jackson’s then live-in girlfriend corroborates Jackson’s testimony that he had left their house during the exact time of the victim’s nearby attack

*And that blood evidence shows it’s “very likely” the perpetrator’s semen was from a man with Jackson’s blood type and “very unlikely” it came from a man with Moses-EL’s, according to a University of Denver forensic biology expert who analyzed the results of a vaginal swab from the case.

Data about the swab is all that’s left of the forensic evidence which – though stored in a box marked “Do Not Destroy” so it could be tested for DNA — police tossed in a dumpster.

“Mr. Moses EL has been waiting a long time for this day — almost exactly 28 years,” defense attorney Eric Klein told Judge Gerdes, trying to persuade her to let Moses-EL be retried.

“We’ve got abundant evidence pointing to L.C. Jackson,” Klein continued. “At the end of the day, a jury would have reasonable doubt.  A jury should get to hear this evidence and make a decision.”

Morrissey doesn’t want a new trial. He and his staff have spent nine years not only denying that there’s any new evidence in Moses-EL’s case, but also misstating facts about it.

In a stunning display of tax-funded, win-at-all-costs hubris, Morrissey’s chief deputy, Bonnie Benedetti, spent much of the three-day hearing trying to defend Moses-EL’s conviction despite the fact that, through a DNA cold case hit orchestrated by her own office, Jackson has been convicted in what had been the unsolved 1992 rape of a mother and her 9-year-old daughter at knifepoint not far from the scene in the Moses-EL case and under circumstances that were uncannily familiar.

Benedetti tried blocking several defense witnesses in the Moses-EL hearing, saying their testimonies would be a waste of the court’s time.

She strained to argue that Jackson’s sworn confession “wasn’t a confession.” She said he lacked credibility because he admitted only to having consensual sex – not raping – the victim he also beat up in Moses-EL’s case. And she said his admissions put forth “absolutely no new evidence in this case whatsoever.”

“There is nothing new,” Benedetti told Gerdes.

The judge used to work with Benedetti — and under Morrissey — as a Denver prosecutor. She has 63 days to issue a written order about whether there’s enough new evidence to lift Moses-EL’s conviction and, if her former colleagues in the D.A.’s office so choose, let them retry him.

“I’m making it an utmost priority,” Gerdes said.


Photo: Clarence Moses-EL, by Susan Greene

A recovering newspaper journalist, Susan reported for papers in California and Nevada before her 13 years as a political reporter, national reporter and metro columnist at The Denver Post. “Trashing the Truth,” a series she reported with Miles Moffeit, helped exonerate five men, prompted reforms on evidence preservation and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism. Her 2012 project, “The Gray Box,” exposed the effects of long-term solitary confinement. The ACLU honored her in 2017 for her years of civil rights coverage, and the Society of Professional Journalists honored her in April with its First Amendment Award. Susan and her two boys live with a puppy named Hymie whom they’re pretty sure is the messiah.


  1. This is why I have NO use for DAs as HUMAN BEINGS.

    There is definite evidence agains the conviction, it should be given the light of day. Why is it that DAs are SO afraid of making a mistake? Even when it’s CLEAR and OBVIOUS they fouled up, we get to hear them say nonsense like “Well, he’s probably guilty of SOMETHING”, like THAT is a worthy thing to lock someone up for.

    Is there ANYONE LESS competent than Morrisey in the DA’s office? If there is, that person is a mystery. This jerk is NOT worthy of a public paycheck, he needs to GO and GO ASAP. We need JUSTICE here, not just crap to make the DA look good, especially when he is THIS incompetent. He seems unable to give much of a DAMN about justice.

    We need to do better.

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