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Documents Outline DA Mitch Morrissey’s Complaints Against Denver Post Pulitzer Candidate

Categories: Media

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The April 3 Message column looks at two separate attacks on “Trashing the Truth,” a series of articles about the use and abuse of DNA evidence in prosecutions that was published by The Denver Post in July 2007. The pieces are among three finalists for an investigative Pulitzer Prize; the winning entrant is slated to be announced on April 7. Among those complaining is Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey (pictured), whose communications director, Lynn Kimbrough, requested several corrections in a portion of the project written by reporter Susan Greene beginning shortly after its initial publication. But the Post hardly raced to address these concerns. As shown by documents Westword obtained following a formal request to the DA’s office, correspondence continued for well over a month before the Post finally responded to Morrissey’s assertions. In the end, Post managing editor Gary Clark admitted that one passage could have been clearer, but neither a clarification nor a correction was published, much to Morrissey’s chagrin.

Below, find the text from the communication in question. Included are several e-mail exchanges between Kimbrough and Clark; a letter from Morrissey to Post editor Greg Moore seeking to restart the stalled process, and Moore’s pledge to get things moving; Clark’s detailed response to Morrissey’s major objections, which ends with his decision to stand by Greene’s story in totality; and the final words from Morrissey, who declares that the Post has done a disservice to its readers by failing to address his office’s concerns. -- Michael Roberts

E-MAIL FROM DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH TO POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK

From: Lynn Kimbrough
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:35 PM
To: gclark@denverpost.com
CC: Taylor, Jeff
Subject: Setting the record straight

Gary, we had some major concerns about Susan Greene’s reporting in the Sunday “Trashing the Truth” article. I don’t know if you have had a chance to review some of those concerns on our website page “Setting the record straight,” but I’m wondering if we should have a discussion about it. We didn’t address ALL of the concerns, but tried to hit those of greatest concern...

I apologize for the late email today. I am in the office all day tomorrow and pretty much the rest of the week. Thanks for your time.

Lynn Kimbrough
Communications Director
Denver DA’s Office
201 West Colfax Avenue, Dept. 801
Denver, Colorado 80202

E-MAIL FROM POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK TO DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH

From: Clark, Gary
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:54 PM
To: Lynn Kimbrough
Subject: RE: Setting the record straight

Lynn – I haven’t had a real chance to study your web posting, although susan greene explained some of the concerns. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.

Gary

E-MAIL FROM DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH TO POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK

From: Lynn Kimbrough
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2007, 7:07 AM
To: Clark, Gary
Subject: RE: Setting the record straight

Hi Gary. Just checking in with you – where are we with our discussion for a correction on a couple of items in that first story Susan wrote?

Lynn Kimbrough
Communications Director
Denver DA’s Office
201 West Colfax Avenue, Dept. 801
Denver, Colorado 80202

E-MAIL FROM POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK TO DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH

From: Clark, Gary
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2007 9:12 AM
To: Lynn Kimbrough
Subject: RE: Setting the record straight

Lynn – I’ll be talking with Susan Greene about your concerns today.

Gary

E-MAIL FROM DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH TO POST EDITOR GREG MOORE

From: Lynn Kimbrough
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 1:28 PM
To: gmoore@denverpost.com
Subject: Letter from the District Attorney

Dear Mr. Moore,

Attached is a letter from District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

Lynn Kimbrough
Communications Director
Denver DA’s Office
201 West Colfax Avenue, Dept. 801
Denver, Colorado 80202

LETTER FROM DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY MITCH MORRISSEY TO POST EDITOR GREG MOORE

August 13, 2007

Gregory Moore, Editor
The Denver Post
101 W. Colfax Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80202

Dear Mr. Moore:

I am writing to ask for your help in correcting a Denver Post news story from July 22, 2007. We have tried working through Gary Clark, and in fact one of my staff has talked with Gary several times beginning July 24th about the corrections, but email inquiries to him about the status of the corrections have gone unanswered for two weeks.

The requested corrections pertain to Susan Greene’s first story written for the “Trashing the Truth” series, “Bad Faith Difficult to Prove.” I have numerous concerns about her overall reporting in this particular story and in the series, but am only seeking corrections for three very specific misstatements in the article.

• The Denver Post story states, “The move violated a court order…,” referring to a package of evidence that was thrown away. This is inaccurate as the court order was actually complied with.

The Court order specifically states that “The Denver Police Department shall package the items listed below. (This was done.) Under the supervision and oversight of Ann Perry of the D.P.D. Crime Laboratory, the items shall be place [sic] in sealed evidence bags and placed in boxes which shall then be sealed. (This was done.) The boxes shall then be made available at the D.P.D. Property Bureau. (This was done and the boxes were available for about a month) to be picked up by a representative from defense counsel’s office.”

• The Denver Post story states that “Denver police never questioned LC, Earl (or) Darnell” – “the three men who, court records show, the victim named minutes after the attack.”

LC Jackson and Darnell Jackson were both questioned and LC actually later testified at trial.

• The Denver Post reports that “One of Jackson’s 1992 victims says she wonders whether police may have prevented the attack on her and her daughter if they had questioned Jackson in the Moses-El case five years earlier.”

Again, LC Jackson was questioned and actually later testified at trial.

I believe these inaccuracies, if left uncorrected, are a great disservice to your readership. I am requesting a formal correction that includes a correction posted to the online version of the story. This request was made to Mr. Clark about three weeks ago.

There are additional concerns about the story posted on our web site on our Setting the Record Straight page... and even broader concerns about Ms. Greene’s reporting that I have not put in writing but could share with at some future time.

I appreciate your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Mitch Morrissey
Denver District Attorney

E-MAIL FROM POST EDITOR GREG MOORE TO DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH AND POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK

From: Moore, Greg
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 1:04 PM
To: Lynn Kimbrough; Clark, Gary
Subject:

Dear Lynn:

I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. My Managing Editor Gary Clark fully intends to respond to the concerns expressed by the district attorney regarding the Moses-El story. Look for that response shortly.

Thank you.

Greg Moore
Editor
The Denver Post
101 W. Colfax, Suite 600
Denver, CO 80202

E-MAIL FROM DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH TO POST EDITOR GREG MOORE

From: Lynn Kimbrough
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2007 3:55 PM
To: Moore, Greg
Subject: RE:

Thank you – I will forward this to Mitch. I forgot that I did not include his email address – sorry about that.

Lynn Kimbrough
Communications Director
Denver DA’s Office
201 West Colfax Avenue, Dept. 801
Denver, Colorado 80202

LETTER FROM POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK TO DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY MITCH MORRISSEY AND DA’S OFFICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR LYNN KIMBROUGH

August 29, 2007

Mitchell R. Morrissey, District Attorney, Second Judicial District
Lynn Kimbrough, Communications Director, Denver District Attorney’s Office
201 W. Colfax Avenue, Dept. 801
Denver, CO 80202

Dear Mr. Morrissey and Ms. Kimbrough:

I have reviewed the assertions of inaccuracy that you have made concerning reporter Susan Greene’s July 22 story about the Clarence Moses-El case. I apologize for the length of time the review required. Partly, this was due to staff vacations and other newsroom issues, but primarily it was because of the numerous issues alleged and my need to find the appropriate court transcripts and decisions to review.

The bottom line is that I see no reason to retract or correct any of our reporting.

While the posting on the DA’s website is more voluminous, let me respond instead to what Mr. Morrissey says are his main concerns, as he outlined them in his letter to Greg Moore on Aug. 13.

The letter states that The Denver Post’s article was inaccurate when it says, “The move violated a court order.” The move, of course, was a reference to a box of evidence that was thrown away.

Mr. Morrissey’s letter quotes from the District Court order, saying that “The Denver Police Department shall package the items listed below,”… “the items shall be placed in sealed bags and placed in boxes,”… “The boxes shall then be made available to be picked up by a representative from defense counsel’s office.” The letter says each of these directives was complied with. However, the question is whether holding the box for a month, then destroying it, complied with the spirit and intent of the order.

Our reporting suggests that it did not.

Our story quotes Mr. Morrissey as saying the evidence “got destroy3ed through the normal course of the destruction of evidence policies of the Denver Police Department.”

The destruction of the evidence was later reviewed by at least two courts. The District Court said that the destruction of the evidence “resulted from negligence in failure to notify the assigned detective directly, in not reading computer printouts and not inspecting individual packages and paperwork prior to actual destruction.” Another court said, “It is troubling that destruction of evidence could have occurred.”

That does not appear to represent a “normal course” for evidence destruction.

Ultimately, as we know, Moses-El was unsuccessful in his appeals. But this was not because the standard then and now, as set in the Youngblood case, was bad faith, not negligence. We did not say the evidence destruction by DPD was deliberate or willful.

Mr. Morrissey’s letter also insists that LC Jackson and Darnell Jackson were both questioned by police, in contradiction to our story, and that LC “actually later testified at trial.”

During an Oct. 27, 1987 preliminary hearing in the Moses-El case, the chief detective on the rape investigation, James Huff, was asked: “Was LC, Darnell or Earl ever questioned about this case?”

Huff responded: “Not by me, no.”

“By anyone, that is, to your knowledge?” Moses-El’s attorney asked him.

“No, I don’t know,” Huff responded.

And LC Jackson indeed testified as a witness at trial but he testified for the DEFENSE. He was called by the defense to try to establish that [name redacted], the rape victim, had been drinking heavily the night of the attack.

Moses-El’s lawyer asked LC Jackson, “Did you ever have an understanding you have been accused in this case?”

Deputy District Attorney David Miller objected (hearsay). The judge sustained the objection.

Thus, we can find no substantiation whatsoever that LC Jackson was pursued as a suspect in this case.

We have also agreed that we could have been more clear by saying LC Jackson was never questioned AS A SUBJECT, but we think readers understood what we were saying in the context of that portion of the story.

Mr. Morrissey’s web posting also asserts that the victim’s sister testified that she didn’t think the victim intended to name LC, Earl and Darnell as suspects. But police records show the victim named LC and Earl immediately after the rape as having hair similar to the rapist, and other records show that she reaffirmed several times that she made that statement. As we know, she also named Moses-El a day or so after the rape, claiming his identity came to her in a dream.

If you have documentation that Mr. Jackson was indeed pursued as a suspect, please let me know. If you have any additional information or documentation regarding any of the other assertions posted to your web site, I would also be happy to review those.

Absent that, we stand by the story.

Thank you for your patience.

Gary Clark
Managing Editor/News
The Denver Post

LETTER FROM DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY MITCH MORRISSEY TO POST MANAGING EDITOR GARY CLARK

September 7, 2007

Gary Clark, Managing Editor
The Denver Post
101 West Colfax Avenue, Suite 600
Denver, Colorado 80202

Dear Mr. Clark:

I received your letter dated August 29, 2007 in which you “stand by the story” that has been the subject of ongoing discussion since it was published in July. I am disappointed and frustrated with your response.

In your letter you state, “However, the question is whether holding the box for a month, then destroying it, complied with the sprit and intent of the order. Our reporting suggests that it did not.”

Let me again point out that your reporting did not just “suggest” something. You reported, “The move violated a court order…” This simply is not accurate. Had the original story reported that ultimately the court order was not complied with, I couldn’t argue. But the way it was worded is wrong.

In your letter you state, “That does not appear to represent a ‘normal course for evidence destruction,’” referring to two court observations about the destruction of the evidence. It was, however, the procedure in place at that time, procedures that have since been updated and improved.

You state in your letter that, “We can find no substantiation whatsoever that LC Jackson was pursued as a suspect in this case.” Gary, we never claimed he was pursued as a suspect. We said he was questioned – just as other witnesses were questioned in that case – based on information in supplementary reports. Susan reported he was never questioned and omitted the fact that he testified at the trial, both facts that readers had a right to know.

I still believe the story is incorrect and that The Denver Post has done a disservice to its readers.

Sincerely,

Mitch Morrissey
Denver District Attorney



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