Fort Collins Coloradoan

September 10, 2008

State says judges Jolene Blair, Terry Gilmore ‘impaired’ fair trial for Masters

Blair, Gilmore face public censure; Masters calls it 'slap on the wrist'

By Trevor Hughes
For Loveland Connection

The state’s highest court on Tuesday publicly reprimanded two Larimer County district judges for their role in the now-overturned 1999 murder conviction of Timothy Masters, saying they failed in their duties as lawyers.

Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair were officially censured by the Colorado Supreme Court in a decision made public Tuesday afternoon. This was the second career admonishment for Gilmore.

“Respondent’s conduct directly impaired the proper operation of the criminal justice system in the trial of Timothy Masters for murder,” the stipulation agreement signed by Gilmore reads.

Blair signed a similar agreement, which also noted they “failed to act with reasonable diligence” in carrying out their official duties as prosecutors. By signing the agreements, Blair and Gilmore acknowledged their violations.
Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair
Judges Terry Gilmore (L) and Jolene Blair (R)
“Punishment? It’s more like a slap on the wrist,” Masters said Tuesday afternoon from Arizona, where he is working with an uncle. “But I didn't expect anything to happen, so this is something.”

Gilmore and Blair presented the case against Masters to a 12-member jury. The jury convicted Masters and the conviction was upheld by the Colorado Appeals and Supreme courts, but the verdict was overturned in January.

The agreements say neither Blair nor Gilmore had a “dishonest or selfish motive” for their actions. They also say that Gilmore and Blair ceded too much control to police over what should have been disclosed to lawyers on both sides.

In an interview with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation, which released the report Tuesday, prosecution star witness Dr. Reid Meloy said Masters’ defense team would have been helped “significantly” by having copies of his full analysis of the case.

Blair’s lawyer declined to comment on Tuesday. Gilmore’s lawyer did not return a phone message.

Attorneys for both Gilmore and Blair were paid for by Larimer County taxpayers because the investigation centered on their conduct as government employees.

Theory of Masters’ guilt questioned
The reprimands focus on the fact that information and reports developed by police during their investigation were not turned over to Masters’ defense attorneys, as required.

“Information that the prosecution did not gather from the police, despite indications that it was available, included opinions of experts who had examined the crime scene evidence, and police reports concerning a 1988 ‘enhanced surveillance’ of Masters that did not produce the results expected by the police, but instead tended to undermine the theory of Masters’ guilt,” the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation said in announcing the reprimands.

Both Gilmore and Blair were made judges within two years of Masters’ conviction.
It is the first time in at least 30 years that a sitting judge has been reprimanded by the Supreme Court for conduct as a lawyer, according to court staff.

The stipulations signed by Gilmore and Blair end an eight-month investigation that began after Masters was released from his life sentence in January.

By signing the agreements, Gilmore and Blair avoid possible public hearings about their conduct.

Masters served nearly 10 years in prison after a jury convicted him of killing Peggy Hettrick in 1987.

Special prosecutors acknowledged in January that Masters didn’t receive a fair trial because several police reports and other documents were never given to defense attorneys during the original trial.

The Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation cited the same items in reprimanding Blair and Gilmore.

A special judge freed Masters on Jan. 22 after agreeing that DNA evidence in the case pointed toward another suspect.

The Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation concluded that:

• Gilmore and Blair knew police had consulted and paid an ex-FBI profiler who concluded that Masters didn’t fit with investigators’ theory of Hettrick’s death. That information wasn’t turned over to Masters’ defense lawyers.

• Gilmore and Blair likely knew about a police sting operation designed to press Masters into incriminating himself on the one-year anniversary of Hettrick’s death. The operation included the planting of a fake newspaper article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan in which police lied about being close to making an arrest. That information wasn’t turned over to Masters’ defense lawyers.

• A psychologist who testified in the case, Dr. Reid Meloy, created extensive “extractions” based on notes, drawings and other evidence in the case, but Gilmore and Blair never turned over those extractions to defense attorneys. In an interview with the OAR, Meloy said having those extractions would have “significantly helped” Masters’ defense team.

Second censure for Gilmore
In 1994, Gilmore received a private censure for failing to disclose to a defense attorney that he knew a witness in a case was under investigation for drug crimes.

In that case, Gilmore was deemed to have violated two professional standards, committing “negligence” in his duties.

That admonishment became public when he was censured Tuesday for a second time.

No mention of doctor
Absent from the report is any mention of Dr. Richard Hammond, a potential alternate suspect in the original trial.

Masters’ original defense team said Gilmore was friendly with, and Blair apparently acquainted with, Dr. Richard Hammond, a potential alternate suspect whose house overlooked where Hettrick’s body was discovered.

Hammond, who committed suicide in 1995, was a voyeur and apparently obsessed with women’s genitals. While police initially considered Hammond a “person of interest” in the case, he was not turned over as a potential suspect.

DA: Censure ‘very difficult to face’
Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said such a public reprimand by the state’s highest court is “very difficult” for a professional to face. But he noted that prosecutors, because they work for the public, are held to a higher standard than defense lawyers.

“As a prosecutor, you have a very high standard of ethical standards. You are representing the community, not an individual, as an individual cause,” Abrahamson said. “Because the standard, the bar, is set so high for prosecutors, you are held to a higher standard.”

Abrahamson was a prosecutor at the same time Gilmore and Blair were presenting the case against Masters, but he had no personal involvement in the case.

“It is a very difficult thing for any lawyer to face a public censure,” Abrahamson said.

Former District Attorney Stu VanMeveren declined to comment on Tuesday evening because he had not yet read the reports.

Blair and Gilmore face retention elections in 2010.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Case Profile: Tim Masters

Truth in Justice