Clarence Moses-EL, Incarcerated For 28 Years, Sues Denver For Wrongful Imprisonment

<p>(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)</p>
<p class="normal">Clarence Moses-EL at the CPR studios, Jan. 18, 2016.</p>
Photo: Clarence Moses-EL
Clarence Moses-EL at the CPR studios, Jan. 18, 2016.

Clarence Moses-EL served 28 years in prison after he was convicted in 1988 for the rape of a Denver woman. Released in late 2015, he was acquitted of the charge the following year. Now he’s suing the city and county of Denver and a host of current and former public officials.

“Mr. Moses-EL was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for more than 28 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections,” states the complaint, filed Friday in federal court. “But shoddy investigation, the willful destruction of exculpatory biological evidence, and prosecutors blinded by the desire to obtain and maintain convictions regardless of the truth left Mr. Moses-EL in the cross-hairs of a powerful criminal-justice system that would fail him time and time again.”

Moses-EL proclaimed his innocence throughout the nearly three decades he was behind bars. Shortly after his release, he told Colorado Matters that he devoted himself to learning to make prison bearable.

“I didn't care if it was about an ant and how ants structured their community. I wanted to know that because you can learn from anything. You can learn from an ant, you can learn from nature itself. I was on a journey and a quest to just learn,” he said.

Johnson & Klein, PLLC, a Boulder- and Denver-based law firm, is representing Moses-EL. The suit names Denver’s former District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, other officials from the DA’s office, and several others from the Denver Police Department and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The suit asks a judge to award Moses-EL “all relief as allowed by law and equity,” including the following:

  • a) A declaration that Defendants violated the federal constitutional rights of Mr. Moses-EL;

  • b) Actual economic damages as established at trial;

  • c) Compensatory damages, including, but not limited to, those for past and future pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses, emotional distress, suffering, loss of reputation, humiliation, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses;

  • d) Punitive damages for all claims allowed by law in amount to be determined at trial;

  • e) Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest at the highest lawful rate;

  • f) Attorney’s fees and the costs associated with this action as allowed by law; and

  • q) Any further relief that this Court deems just and proper, and any other relief as allowed by law.

A spokeswoman for the city said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit. “Once we receive the complaint, we will evaluate the claims and respond to them,” said Jenna Espinoza, deputy communications director for Mayor Michael Hancock’s office.