State group honors prosecutor in Dewey case

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Assistant 21st Judicial District Attorney Rich Tuttle, above, on Monday was presented with the Robert R. Gallagher Colorado Prosecutor of the Year award during the fall meeting of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council in Breckenridge. Tuttle helped prosecute Robert Dewey, below, in the June 1994 slaying of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor in Palisade. Earlier this year, Tuttle personally supervised a task force of various law enforcement representatives to re-investigate the case, which led to the exoneration of Dewey. Tuttle is shown in Mesa County District Court in 2010.

Photo by Christopher Tomlinson

Richard Tuttle’s worst result spurred his finest hour.

And Robert Dewey — wrongfully imprisoned for murder in 1996 in what was Tuttle’s first murder prosecution — owes his freedom partially to the efforts of the same man.

“Had Mr. Tuttle decided he wanted to fight us instead of being honorable, Mr. Dewey would still be in prison,” said Denver attorney Danyel Joffe, who worked several years for Dewey’s freedom. “Most prosecutors want to fight every step of the way just because they can.”

Tuttle’s work to exonerate Dewey earned him the Robert R. Gallagher Colorado Prosecutor of the Year award, which was presented Monday during the fall meeting in Breckenridge of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. Tuttle, assistant 21st Judicial district attorney and the number two prosecutor in the office under District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, was nominated by his boss. Tuttle is the third Mesa County prosecutor to win the award in five years.

Thomas Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, said the unique circumstances with Tuttle and Dewey stood out among this year’s candidates for the award.

“It’s that sense of whether it helps you or hurts, your job is to do what’s right,” Raynes said. “It takes a special person to be able to face what Rich did.”

Tuttle and former prosecutor Martha Kent secured convictions against Dewey in October 1996 on charges of first-degree murder and sexual assault in the June 1994 slaying of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor, who was found strangled with a dog leash inside her Palisade apartment. Dewey was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The case was forgotten in Tuttle’s world until December 2010, when he was first contacted by Joffe. Dewey’s case for freedom stood on fresh DNA testing showing no trace of Dewey at the scene, while pointing at a new suspect.

“I was expecting (Tuttle) to make us fight every step of the way,” Joffe said. “But he demonstrated he was interested in doing justice, regardless of the cost to his reputation and ego.”

Tuttle personally supervised a task force of various law enforcement representatives to re-investigate the case, which formed in January and continued through April. The work brought him face-to-face with Dewey in an interview from behind the walls of Limon Correctional Facility.

“I’d never spoken to the guy,” Tuttle said. “He shook my hand right at the beginning, looked me in the eye and answered all my questions. It’s a dimension we don’t often get as prosecutors ... it’s easy to impugn the worst motivations for someone you’ve never met.”

Tuttle’s career in the District Attorney’s office has included the 2005 murder conviction of Glenn Torres, as well as the 2009 and 2010 murder convictions of Miriam Helmick and Jerry Nemnich.

“Freeing Robert Dewey from prison is the proudest thing I’ve ever done,” Tuttle told Law Week Colorado in May.


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