Taxpayers Underwrite Prosecutors' Negligence; Negligent Prosecutors Get Promoted


Larimer County, Colorado, will pay Tim Masters $4.1 million for his 1999 wrongful murder conviction. Masters was released last year after he was exonerated by DNA testing. The money will come from the county's risk management fund and from a payment from the county's insurer. The former is funded by taxpayers, and the latter will almost certainly raise the county's premiums, also paid by taxpayers.

More interesting is who won't be paying. Former prosecutors Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair convicted Masters on flimsy evidence (some drawings he'd made and testimony from an alleged expert on sexual deviants). They were also actually censured by Colorado Supreme Court for not bothering to look into evidence undermining their case against Masters, as well as for withholding exculpatory evidence from Masters' attorneys. The censure was an unusual reprimand for misbehaving prosecutors. But it was largely symbolic. As noted, Gilmore and Blair won't have to pay a dime to Masters. And both will get to keep their current jobs: They've both since moved on to become judges in Larimer County District Court, where they preside over other criminal cases.

Both negligent-prosecutors-promoted-to-judge said through their attorneys that they oppose the settlement, and are confident they'd have won if the lawsuit had been brought to trial. The way the law stands now, they're probably right.