Mesa County judge ponders payout petition for ‘Rider’ Dewey

Robert Dewey



Seventeen years and 12 days of wrongful imprisonment in Colorado is worth $1,192,310.

Minus taxes, of course.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office and Mesa County District Attorney’s Office said in a joint motion filed last week that’s what is owed to 52-year-old Robert “Rider” Dewey, consistent with Colorado’s new compensation system signed into law this summer.

The motion was a response to a first-of-its kind petition filed in Mesa County on Dewey’s behalf by Denver lawyer Danyel Joffe. While Joffe, state and local authorities largely agree on Dewey’s request for compensation, the two sides are fighting about records.

What’s next is pending before District Court Judge Richard Gurley: The judge must make a finding that Dewey’s petition shows he’s “actually innocent” in the June 1994 rape and murder of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor in Palisade.

A hearing on Dewey’s petition is scheduled later this month.

Should Gurley grant the petition, the Colorado court administrator’s office will have 14 days to issue an initial $100,000 payment. Funds will be distributed in annual installments of $100,000, and Dewey would have to complete a “financial management instruction course” to continue receiving the funds after the first payment, according to the new law.

Dewey will have to obtain health insurance. Colorado could slash annual payouts by $10,000 for failure to provide proof of insurance. He’ll also have an education opportunity: Tuition and fees would be waived for any state-supported higher education institution.

Colorado could withdraw from the compensation if Dewey wins a civil judgment exceeding the total compensation amount, or, if he’s convicted of a class 1 or class 2 felony.

RECORDS REQUEST

Joffe’s petition for compensation also includes a request that Gurley issue an order to expunge, “as if such events had never taken place,” all records in the case held by the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, Mesa County District Court, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, Palisade Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Department of Corrections and “all other state and local government agencies.”

The DA’s office, however, argues that the records are needed in the pending prosecution of 41-year-old Douglas Thames, the man scheduled for trial next year in Taylor’s murder.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Julie Selsberg wrote in a response that information about Dewey’s conviction, as well as his DNA profile, have already been removed from state and national computer databases.

Jacie Taylor’s body was found June 4, 1994, partially clothed in a bathtub in her Palisade apartment. A Mesa County jury convicted Dewey in October 1996 of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dewey was released from prison April 30, 2012, after new DNA testing didn’t link him to crucial evidence in the case, while implicating Thames.

Dewey’s case inspired a measure signed into law June 5 by Gov. John Hickenlooper, creating a state compensation program for people who are found factually innocent of felony crimes after serving time in jail, prison or juvenile placement.


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