Judge: Dewey deserves at least $1 million
In a first-of-its kind payout for Colorado, Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley signed off on a compensation package for Robert “Rider” Dewey, calling 17 years and 12 days of wrongful imprisonment for the murder of a Palisade woman, “the result of a miscarriage of justice.”
“(Dewey) has presented reliable evidence he was actually innocent from any participation in the crimes at issue and that he did not attempt, solicit, conspire, act as a complicitor or act as an accessory to the crimes charged, or the commission of a crime or any crimes factually related to the crimes at issue,” Gurley wrote in an eight-page ruling.
The ruling, which was signed by the judge Aug. 28, directs the Colorado State Court Administrator to start paying Dewey $1,192,310 at a rate of $100,000 per year, minus taxes and adjusted for inflation.
Dewey is the first Colorado resident to receive compensation under a bill inspired by his case and signed into law in June by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
To date, Gurley’s ruling notes, Colorado’s judicial system has given Dewey $280 — accounting for reimbursement of various fees and court costs.
Gurley’s order also addressed Mesa County’s investigation into the 1994 murder of Jacie Taylor, noting Mesa County and the Colorado Attorney General’s office are, “unaware of, and do not admit to, any wrongdoing, misconduct or bad faith by law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office for the 21st Judicial District, or any other governmental official during the original criminal prosecution ...”
Taylor’s body was found June 4, 1994, partially clothed in a bathtub in her Palisade apartment. Dewey, 52, was convicted by a Mesa County jury in October 1996 of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Dewey was exonerated and released from prison April 30, 2012, after new DNA testing didn’t link him to evidence items in the case while implicating a new suspect, Douglas Thames.
Thames, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a Fort Collins woman, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial.
A measure which became law June 5 created a mechanism by which people who are found factually innocent of felony crimes after serving time in jail, prison or juvenile placement, can receive compensation from the state.
Gurley’s ruling notes Dewey must complete a personal financial management course to receive more than one annual payment. The payments can also be reduced by $10,000 if Dewey fails to present proof of health insurance or Medicaid coverage. Colorado can also halt the payments if Dewey is convicted of a class 1 or 2 felony.
Tuition and fees will be waived for any state-supported higher education institution.
Gurley, however, declined a request from Dewey attorney Danyel Joffe to order the expungement of all records in the case. Mesa County and the Colorado Attorney General’s office had objected to the request, arguing the records are needed for the pending criminal case against Thames.
State officials said they’ve already taken other steps to clear Dewey’s name, including the removal of conviction information related to the Taylor murder from state and national law enforcement computer databases.
Dewey’s DNA was also removed from a state offender index.