DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced late Friday her decision to oppose awarding nearly $2 million to a Denver man who was wrongfully convicted of a brutal rape and beating.
Clarence Moses-EL, 62, spent nearly three decades in prison for the 1987 attack of a woman who lived in his neighborhood.
In a 2016 re-trial, the jury found Moses-EL not guilty of the crimes.
Awarding Moses-EL with the compensation money provided for on the Colorado Exoneration Act, passed in 2013, requires the Attorney General’s approval, along with that of the prosecuting District Attorney.
In the case of Mr. Moses-EL, Denver D.A. Beth McCann did not take a stand on either side, while Colorado A.G. Cynthia Coffman opposed the compensation.
Annie Skinner, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said that the victim steadfastly maintains her identification of Moses-EL as her attacker.
Coffman also believes, Skinner said, that the case may not meet the required burden of proof.
“I’m outraged,” said Eric Klein, an attorney representing Moses-EL.
The Colorado Exoneration Act awards $70,000 to wrongfully convicted individuals for every year spent behind bars.
For Moses-EL, who spent more than 28-years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit, the amount adds up to nearly $2,000,000.
While the amount may sound high, Klein said it will not come close to restoring the injustice that his client suffered.
“I don’t think you’ll find a person in this world if you walked up to them, Cynthia Coffman or anybody else and said, ‘hey I’ll give you 2 million dollars to spend 28-years in prison. Not a single person’s going to take you up on that offer,” Klein told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
The compensation would, however, offer some desperately needed help for Moses-EL’s adult children who had to grown up without him, and his twelve grandchildren of whose lives he missed so much.
“It was a tragedy,” Moses-EL said. “There’s a financial burden; a stress sitiation on them… it’s very poor and devastating… I want to try to secure their future.”
The compensation would also waive state college tuition for Moses-EL’s two children, now both aged 34, who have not yet graduated from higher learning institutions.
Coffman’s office was not able to provide an on-camera interview, but explained her position in a press release.
It said, in part, that because the Denver Police Department destroyed the case’s DNA evidence, there is no way to know whether it would have corroborated the victim’s identification of Moses-EL. The press release went on to state that “acquittal is not equivalent to a finding of actual innocence.”
“That’s just frankly ridiculous,” Klein said. “Because anybody who looks objectively would say, why would (Moses-EL) fight so hard to get that evidence tested unless he knew, ‘this is my path to freedom?'”
Coffman’s opposition means that taxpayers will pay for a jury trial, likely in the fall of 2018, to determine Moses-EL’s compensation.
In December of 2017, his attorney also filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
He said that the civil rights lawsuit, an entirely separate case from the petition for exoneration compensation, intends to hold the city accountable and to make sure that no one else has to suffer the injustice of a wrongful conviction.