“Let me start by saying that I think the final outcome was just and right for both sides. The games played to get there, and the refusal by the District Attorney’s office to turn over evidence and to seek the truth and to seek justice in this case and in all cases, is abhorrent.”
These words were written by Nate Becker, a juror who was presiding over the trial of Edward Montour when the case was resolved through a plea negotiation last Friday. Montour pled guilty to the 2002 murder of Limon prison guard Eric Autobee.
After ten years of pursuing a death sentence in the case, Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler finally folded last Friday and put a plea offer on the table. His decision came after months of lobbying from the victim’s father not to pursue capital charges, and recent speculation that the underlying conviction they were going to use to seek the death penalty against Montour was actually very shaky.
Now that the case is over, Becker has taken the opportunity to express his frustration with Brauchler and his office in their management of the case in a letter to Westword. Becker blasts the prosecution for “shameful” tactics in the case:
Both of the prosecuting District Attorneys admitted that the original murder case, where the Defendant was convicted of murdering his eleven-week-old daughter, Taylor, was likely to be overturned, as the “evidence was overwhelming.” They were crying foul that the Judge “hamstrung” them by letting the Defense “retry” the El Paso case to us. The DA’s office believed that we would feel sorry for the Defendant as the DAs and elected DA George Brauchler had no doubt that we would walk away believing that the defendant was wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned. Thus, our sympathy for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment would cause us not to impose death, and as a result the DA’s office felt they must get life without parole so Montour never sees the outside of a prison.
The DA’s office made no attempt to further investigate the wrongful conviction and imprisonment and instead threw roadblock after roadblock at the Defense to attempt to prevent them from obtaining the records needed to prove this, and to further prevent them from being able to tell the jury — as we might feel sorry for a man who was mentally ill, wrongfully accused of killing his daughter, wrongfully imprisoned, wrongfully labeled a baby killer in prison, where he was the at the bottom of the totem pole. He was raped, beaten and tormented while in prison, as baby killers are scum and despised just like child molesters are. Essentially, the District Attorney’s Office was concerned that telling the jury the truth might cause us to not impose the death penalty. What is wrong with this picture and this mentality?
Becker’s criticisms do not include allegations of prosecutorial misconduct; instead they pick up on the troubling theme of prosecutors who use their power to win at all costs rather than pursuing justice. See our previous post on the Missouri Attorney General’s office, for example.
Becker finishes his letter with a call for public accountability of decisions made by prosecutors to pursue charges and spend taxpayers money: “The people of Colorado need to know how our elected officials are spending our money and that convictions and an “eye for an eye” are more important than seeking justice and the truth.”
Read the entire letter here.
Read an opinion-editorial by Becker for The Denver Post here.