Colorado Supreme Court denies Independent petition for rehearing in death-row case

The state Supreme Court today denied The Colorado Independents petition for a rehearing of its request to unseal records related to prosecutorial misconduct in the capital case against Sir Mario Owens.

The Independent is now considering whether to file a petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court of the Colorado high court’s decision.

In originally denying the request for records to be unsealed, the court ruled June 11 that “unfettered access” to criminal justice records isn’t guaranteed by either the First Amendment or Colorado’s Constitution. The Independent sought a rehearing on the grounds that the court misunderstood the request, which was not for “unfettered access,” but rather access to four records in a particular case.

That case involves a motion from lawyers representing Owens — one of three death-row inmates in Colorado; he was convicted convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the killings of Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields — who had sought to disqualify District Attorney George Brauchler’s office from the case. Owens’s lawyers are seeking a new special prosecutor from outside the 18th Judicial District. Brauchler is now running for state attorney general.

The judge, Christopher Munch, found a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct by Brauchler’s officer, but still the motion was denied and remains sealed, along with a transcript of a hearing, Munch’s order, and all documentation related to it.

Judge Munch found that under Brauchler’s predecessor, former District Attorney Carol Chambers, prosecutors withheld evidence at Owens’s 2008 trial, and that the withholding of evidence continued after Brauchler took office in 2013, while Owens was appealing. The judge concluded that a jury likely still would have found Owens guilty even if prosecutors had turned over the withheld evidence.

Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Creative Commons/Flickr


  1. Oder in the court

    District Attorney Brauchler’s handling of this case, and the district court’s refusal to order the release of his office’s records documenting prosecutorial misconduct, has had the stink of a coverup from the get-go.

    With Brauchler now a candidate for state attorney general our state supreme court also refuses an appeal to let the public see these records. Some might conclude that the court lacks the moxie to take a stand during one of the state’s major political contests.

    Nothing our state judicial system has done, (or more accurately, has failed to do) in this case prevents Brauchler’s political opponent, attorney general candidate Phil Weiser, from campaigning loud and clear about Brauchlers’ continuing coverup of the truth in this case.

    How about it, Mr. Weiser?

    Bravo to the Colorado Independent for continuing to shed light on this coverup of prosecutorial malfeasance in a death penalty case. With our state courts having washed their hands of it, this matter deserves further appeal. May the Colorado Independent have the resources to keep at it.

    Jim Crawford

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