Editorial: Justice served (belatedly) in Ft. Collins
Vail CO, Colorado
Timothy Masters walked out of a Fort Collins courtroom a free man Tuesday, nearly a decade after being wrongly convicted of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick.
Masters has declared his innocence since he was first targeted as a suspect in the crime just after it happened, but it was finally DNA evidence ” specifically, the presence of a former boyfriend’s DNA and the lack of any of Masters’ on Hettrick’s body ” that set him free.
While people are sometimes wrongly accused of crimes and occasionally wrongly convicted, cases like Masters’ are rare in Colorado. At the time, murder was a rarity in Fort Collins. Maybe that lack of experience is what led to the series of errors that led to this travesty of justice. Larimer County prosecutors targeted Masters based, apparently, on violent drawings he made as a teenager. Then, they took another 10 years to take that flimsy evidence to trial, where he was convicted. That conviction was upheld by Colorado’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
But the case started falling apart in the last year or so when it was discovered that prosecutors never shared critical evidence with Masters’ defense attorneys. Those who believed in his case, and who pressed for the recent DNA tests, can’t get enough credit for bringing the new facts to light.
Masters appears to be the victim of a district attorney’s office too eager to make a case, but it’s good to see that our justice system work the way it’s supposed to, even belatedly.
Masters will never get back the 10 years he spent in state prison, but he should be compensated by the state for the time he’s lost.
Still in his mid-30s, we hope Masters has plenty of time to create a new life for himself.
The case also has a local connection. Mike Goodbee, an assistant prosecutor in the Adams County District Attorney’s office, was the special prosecutor who led the investigation that set Masters free. Goodbee is a former District Attorney for this region, and worked for many years here as an assistant prosecutor.
Those of us who worked with Goodbee in those days know he must be as gratified to see a wrongly convicted man freed as he is to put a hardened criminal behind bars.
” Scott N. Miller for the Editorial Board