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AG Coffman Defends Civil Lawsuit Against State in Exoneration Case

Victim Steadfastly Maintains Her Identification of Clarence Moses-EL as Her Attacker

DENVER- Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman announced that her office has filed its response to Clarence Moses-EL’s Petition for Exoneration Based on Actual Innocence. This is a civil case filed by Moses-EL requesting nearly two million dollars in taxpayer compensation under Colorado’s Exoneration Act, § 13-65-101, et seq., C.R.S. This case is not a criminal re-trial.

Only those individuals who can establish by clear and convincing evidence that they are actually innocent of the crimes charged can recover compensation under Colorado’s Exoneration Act. The law requires individuals seeking compensation to clear this high hurdle because it recognizes that acquittal of a crime is not the same as establishing actual innocence. The Attorney General’s Office met with the Denver District Attorney’s Office, Moses-EL’s legal team, and the victim in the case. With the information that has been provided to our office at this time, the State does not agree that Moses-EL can meet the required burden of proof to obtain compensation under the Act. 

In 1987, the Denver District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Moses-EL for brutally beating and raping the victim. The victim was sexually assaulted near her two small children and suffered six broken bones on the right side of her face.  As a result of the assault, the victim was unrecognizable to her family and permanently lost partial vision in her right eye.

Following the attack, the victim identified Moses-EL as the person who assaulted and raped her. The victim and Moses-EL lived in the same neighborhood and knew each other prior to the assault.  The victim’s positive identification of Moses-EL as the person who committed these crimes has not changed in the last thirty years.  Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office met with the victim prior to filing the response, and she continues to maintain her certainty that Moses-EL is the man who savagely attacked her. 

In 1988, a jury convicted Moses-EL of first-degree sexual assault with serious bodily injury, second-degree burglary, and second-degree assault, and the district court sentenced him to serve 48 years in the Department of Corrections.  Moses-EL’s motion for a new trial and several attempts at post-conviction relief failed until approximately 25 years later, when he began communicating with another convicted felon, L.C. Jackson. Jackson later claimed he had consensual sex with the victim and hit her.

In 2016, Moses-EL was granted a new trial. Jackson refused to testify at that trial and as a result he was not cross-examined on the fact that he has alternated between admitting and denying his involvement. One of Jackson’s conflicting accounts includes a handwritten note in which he denied assaulting the victim and claimed to be with another person at the time of the attack. The State asserts that Jackson’s background and his numerous inconsistent versions of the story undermine his much-belated confession such that it does not constitute reliable evidence sufficient to demonstrate that Moses-EL actually was innocent.   Unfortunately, the DNA evidence in this case was destroyed by the Denver Police Department and as a result, there is no way to know what DNA testing would have showed, including whether or not it would have corroborated the victim’s identification of Moses-EL. Although the jury at the second trial ultimately found that Moses-EL’s guilt had not been established beyond a reasonable doubt, acquittal is not equivalent to a finding of actual innocence. 

“After much consideration, and based both on the Denver District Attorney’s Office’s case against Moses-EL and the review conducted by my office in preparation of this reply, I cannot in good conscience tell the victim that the State will voluntarily pay nearly two million dollars of taxpayer money to the man she has steadfastly identified as her attacker,” said Attorney General Coffman. “The evidence does not demonstrate that Moses-EL can prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is innocent of these charges, and so my office must oppose his request for financial compensation.”

A copy of the State’s response can be found on the right side of this web page. 

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CONTACT
Annie Skinner
Colorado Attorney General’s Office
720-508-6553 or Annie.skinner@coag.gov