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Judge Overturns Rape Conviction, DA Weighs Whether To Retry Case

By Mark Ackerman and Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)- After 28 years behind bars, a Denver man could be released from prison for a crime he's always proclaimed he didn't commit. Earlier this week, a judge overturned Clarence Moses-EL's rape and assault convictions from 1987 and ordered a new trial.

Immediately after the brutal attack, the victim named three men, "LC, Earl & Darnell." She was rushed to the hospital with six broken bones in her face. When she woke up from a coma at the hospital she named a different man, Clarence Moses-EL, who was known at the time as "Bubbles."

At trial, the victim said the night of her attack she was at a party with L.C., Earl and Darnell, but knew that Moses-EL was her attacker and she had nightmares about him while she was in a coma.

Clarence Moses-EL
Clarence Moses-EL (credit: Colorado Department of Corrections)

DNA from the crime was not tested at Moses-EL's original trial. Years later during an appeal, a judge ordered DNA testing, but the evidence was mistakenly thrown in the trash by a Denver police officer.

Recently, convicted felon L.C. Jackson made a confession in relation to the crime. However, the District Attorney's office said it did not find him to be credible and said Jackson now admits the confession was a lie.

In Judge Kandace Gerdes' order to overturn the conviction, she cites the evidence in the hearing, including L.C. Jackson's letter, witness testimony and expert testimony that the rapist's blood type was consistent with Jackson's blood type, not Moses-EL's.

On Friday, the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance demanded District Attorney Mitch Morrissey drop the charges against Moses-EL.

"Mistakes happen," said Reverend Patrick Demmer at a Friday news conference, "That's why we have erasers at the end of the pencil. Use your pencil, erase your mistake and let this man go on with his life."

Clarence Moses-EL
Clarence Moses-EL (credit: Colorado Independent)

Prosecutors say they plan to meet with the victim in the case and have 30 days to decide if they will retry Moses-EL for the crime. Defense attorneys believe Moses-EL will be released, at least temporarily, after a bond hearing on Dec. 22.

"No one should need to spend this many years in prison to vindicate their innocence," said Moses-EL's defense Attorney Gail Johnson. "Mr. Moses-EL is looking forward to enjoying the warm embrace of his family and enjoy sleeping on a mattress that is thicker than an inch or two and have a good meal."

By phone from Baltimore, Moses-EL's brother David Reese, told CBS4's Rick Sallinger that it was justice gone wrong.

"We all know he was never ever capable of doing anything like this. He is a loving, caring guy," said Reese.

He added he is sorry their mother, who passed away, will not be able to see him be released.

"Mr. Moses-EL is 60 years old and has spent nearly half his life in prison for a crime he did not commit," Johnson said. "But he has never lost hope and never stopped proclaiming his innocence."

Clarence Moses-EL
Clarence Moses-EL (credit: Colorado Independent)

The Denver District Attorney's Office issued the following statement regarding the Moses-EL case:

The Denver District Attorney is currently reviewing the Court's decision to grant a new trial to Clarence Moses EL. Because there is a possibility that this case will be set for a new trial, the District Attorney must follow the Rules of Professional Conduct which require that he refrain from talking about the facts of the case.

However, the District Attorney believes it is important for people to have some of the information that has come from the public court hearings and the public record.

All of the evidence, including the explanation of the victim's reference to a dream, was presented to 12 Denver jurors who convicted Clarence Moses EL.
The victim knew Clarence Moses EL because he was her neighbor and she was able to recognize him during the attack. Those who now argue that he was convicted based solely on a dream are either unaware of the complete facts or disregard them. The victim was severely beaten, suffered multiple facial fractures, and was in a coma. It took some time after the attack before the victim was able to give her statement. She testified during the trial and was cross-examined at length. The jury believed her testimony that she was attacked and raped by Clarence Moses EL.

What was presented as new evidence, resulting in the Court's decision to grant a new trial, was a confession that was not true and was retracted.
The "new" evidence in this case was a "confession" by a mutual acquaintance of the victim and Moses EL, a man named LC Jackson. When he made his "confession," his new claims were investigated. LC claimed that he had consensual sex with the victim. But his new details about having sex with her were implausible and not consistent with the brutal beating that resulted in the serious injuries she suffered. LC Jackson is serving prison time for two convictions for sexual assault. In his statement to the District Attorney's investigator, he admitted he had lied and had made the confession up. He said he had been told by the Innocence Project that he couldn't be charged in the matter because of the statute of limitations, so he felt he could tell a few lies to help out Moses EL.

Clarence Moses EL has had the full benefit of every aspect of the criminal justice system including multiple appeals. Every claim and request for reconsideration has been fully litigated by the court system.

It is unfortunate that some published reports have selectively reported and misrepresented the facts of this case. This has done a disservice to the truth of this case, to the victim of this horrible crime, and to the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, the decision whether or not to re-try Clarence Moses EL will not be made based on public opinion or public pressure. That decision will be made following a complete review of the Court's ruling and a meeting with the victim.

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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