By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)– It was a sentence that the U.S. Supreme Court found to be “cruel and unusual punishment” for Curtis Brooks and others- life without parole. That was the sentence for Brooks for a crime he committed when he was 15 years old.

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Now Brooks is 39. He spoke to CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger shortly after his release.

“From the beginning I was told I was going to die in prison,” he said.

Brooks was convicted of felony murder in connection with an April 1995 murder in Aurora. In that case, Christopher Ramos, 24, was shot and killed.

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Brooks was the driver involved in the crime that included others convicted in the carjacking and robbery. Brooks did fire a shot into the air, but it wasn’t that bullet that left Ramos dead.

The victim’s mother, Joyce Ramos, said at the time outside of court, “The only thing we want now is to make sure no one suffers like we suffered.”

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Brooks was homeless at the time. Some people offered him shelter in return for helping in a robbery. Brooks realizes what he did then was wrong, very wrong.

“It only takes one moment of indecision or inability to do the right thing to change your live and that of others forever,” he said.

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Although he got the maximum sentence, he had people who believed in him. People like Joanne Benson, his elementary school principal.

“What I felt in elementary school is that he was bright and capable and that he could be a wonderful productive citizen,” said Benson.

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She came to Colorado to meet Brooks when he emerged from the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway. During his 24 years in prison, Brooks spent 10 years of it in solitary confinement for his own protection since he was so young.

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Attorney Hollynd Hoskins has represented Brooks through it all.

“It has been an amazing 24 years to see him transform himself,” she said. “He is incredibly remorseful, he never forgets Christopher Ramos.”

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Brooks echoed that, “This is something I carry with me every single day”

His first order of business getting new clothes. Brooks will be able to be on parole while living in Maryland where a job has already been lined up for him.

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The legal trail that led to his release was a long one that stretched from various courts to the Colorado and U.S. Supreme Courts and then Gov. John Hickenlooper who commuted Brooks sentence allowing him to be released on July 1, 2019.

Rick Sallinger

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