DA won’t reinvestigate 3 deaths at the hands of Denver law enforcement
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said she won’t launch new investigations into the deaths of Marvin Booker, Jessica Hernandez and Michael Marshall at the hands of Denver law enforcement.
Not because she can’t reopen the cases, as previously stated, but because she won’t. All three cases — referred to as “murders” by Mayor Michael Hancock recently amid tensions over George Floyd’s death — began with the previous district attorney, Mitch Morrissey.
“My predecessor decided a lot of cases, and I don’t go back and re-evaluate those cases unless there is something that comes to light that would lead me to believe there was new evidence or it wasn’t investigated adequately,” McCann said.
She took office in 2017 and noted that since then she has filed cases against two Denver police officers, a deputy and a Lakewood police officer.
The city paid settlements to the families in all three of the older cases, but no one was charged criminally. To reopen them, McCann said, she would need evidence that a crime was committed — and enough of it to believe a jury could convict. That evidence isn’t there, she said.
But as the nation — including Denver — enters its second week of massive protests for changes within a racist justice system, McCann’s reluctance to revisit controversial cases in Denver’s history doesn’t sit well with others.
McCann’s answer is unacceptable to Spencer Booker, Marvin Booker’s brother.
“Because of the climate and because of the disconcertedness of the community, she has a responsibility to bring closure to that community regarding Marvin Booker’s murder,” Spencer Booker said.
A civil trial already concluded gross misconduct by deputies in Booker’s death, said Gail Booker, Spencer’s wife. Even so, the family was never afforded the possibility of a criminal trial.
“It was a coverup from day one,” Gail Booker said.
Jail deputies killed Booker, a homeless street preacher, in 2010 after they restrained and shocked him with a Taser. Jurors in a 2014 federal civil rights trial found deputies liable for his death and the city paid the family a $6 million settlement.
For Denver’s law enforcement to move forward with the trust and understanding of residents, city leaders must go back and correct past injustices, Spencer Booker said. Without that, the city is bound to see more wrongs, likely from the same officers.
Indeed, at least two deputies involved with Booker’s death have made headlines in other cases. Deputy Faun Gomez, who initiated contact with Booker just before his death, was also named in a lawsuit stemming from the death of former jail inmate Emily Rice, who died in custody after deputies failed to notice her deteriorating condition after an alcohol-related car crash in 2006.
The city paid $3 million to Rice’s family.
And Colorado State Patrol troopers cited Deputy James Grimes — who grabbed Booker by the neck during the fatal struggle — with reckless driving, reckless endangerment and speeding after he was clocked driving a van full of prisoners on Interstate 25 at more than 90 mph.
Not only should McCann reopen the Booker case, but she should also launch a new investigation into Michael Marshall’s death, said Mari Newman, the attorney who handled both the Booker and Marshall cases.
Jail deputies also killed Marshall after pinning his face to the floor and applying pressure to his body for more than 10 minutes, even after he fell limp and vomited. The city paid $4.6 million to Marshall’s family.
Denver police shot and killed Hernandez, 17, after she was found in a stolen car and tried to flee. Officers opened fire, killing Hernandez, who was unarmed. The city paid the Hernandez family a $1 million settlement.
“Even the city’s own mayor has conceded that Denver’s law enforcement officers murdered three members of the community,” Newman said. “Then it is absolutely the responsibility of the elected district attorney to prosecute those murders.”
Theresa Marchetta, a spokesperson for Hancock later recanted the mayor’s comments about murder, saying he misspoke. She said Thursday that Hancock does not believe the Booker, Hernandez and Marshall cases should be reopened.
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