A Whole Community Smiled: Clarence Moses-El Released

“We did it, Baby,” were the second words that Stephanie Burke, wife of Clarence Moses-El said to her husband after he walked through jail doors.  “Here, meet the grandchildren you’ve never met,” were the first.

Moses-El has never met his grandchildren because he has been incarcerated since 1987, convicted for a rape and assault for which there was only the testimony of a badly beaten victim whose eye was blinded in the attack as evidence.  During his trial the victim said that his face came to her in a dream.

Through failures in policy and procedures in the Denver Police Department and the District Attorney’s office, evidence that could have exonerated Moses-El was tossed in a trash dumpster by the Denver Police Department.  Governor Bill Ritter, in office in 2008 prevented new legislation that would have granted Moses-El a new trial to make its way through an already swayed legislature.  Ritter was a former Deputy District Attorney for the Denver DA’s office in the early 1980’s.

Earlier in the day, District Judge Kandace Gerdes set bond in his case at $50,000 despite arguments by his attorney Eric Klein that Moses-El met the requirements to be released on a Personal Recognizance Bond, “I think that given all the evidence in this case, I think it would be surprising if we retry this case that [the District Attorney) could obtain a conviction.”

One reference Klein made was to forensic evidence presented last summer in a preliminary hearing that raised blood typing capabilities that were said to demonstrate the innocence of Moses-El, and with the evolution of this testing over the years, points to LC Jackson, whom the victim initially named as one of three possible attackers.  Jackson is currently incarcerated for other similar rapes close to the time and location of the assault for which Moses-El was convicted.  During that incident the victim had been so badly beaten that she lost the use of one eye and suffered several facial fractures.  At that same hearing, Jackson testified that he had beaten the victim after having consensual sex with her.  He testified that as he ages and gets closer to “meeting his maker” that he wanted to clear his conscience.  After his testimony and before leaving the courtroom he put his hand on the shoulder of Moses-El and apologized.

On December 14, 2015 Judge Kandace Gerdes, a former attorney in the Denver DA’s office vacated his 48 year prison sentence and ordered a new trial.  The DA’s office has said that it needs to again review court documents in this case and to again interview the victim.  Supporters of Moses-El such as the Denver Ministerial Alliance have demanded that he not be retried saying at a press conference on Thursday that the DA’s office has never shown respect for their dreams, “We have dreamed that the DA’s office demonstrate accountability for the many officer-involved shootings where there does exist overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.”

At today’s hearing, Klein went on to defend why Moses-El should be released on a PR bond, “In addition to the new evidence that did factor into the decision [to order a new trial], Mr. Moses-El will present additional evidence that will be favorable to the defense including expert testimony explaining the numerous risk factors associated with the identification in this case that present an unacceptably high risk of an erroneous identification of Mr. Moses-El as well as expert and lay testimony of Mr. Moses-El’s conduct in prison that is consistent with innocence and inconsistent with guilt.”

“He’s been waiting 28 years for this opportunity and he’s not going to give up that opportunity to vindicate his innocence.”


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