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Darrell Havens: Paralyzed inmate denied clemency, surgery

darrell havens mug shot cropped.jpg
Darrell Havens.
His doctors have told Darrell Havens that surgery could help relieve his deteriorating condition, but the wheelchair-bound inmate's keepers in the Colorado Department of Corrections aren't exactly eager to okay the operation -- or to release him to seek care on his own. Havens, who was left a quadriplegic by a police shooting in 2007, recently had a clemency application denied by DOC executive director Tom Clements.

State inmates must have served at least a third of the sentence to be eligible for a commutation by the governor. Havens has served only four years of a twenty-year sentence for car theft and attempted assault, but he'd applied for a waiver of the usual criteria because of what's known in the bureaucracy as "catastrophic medical problems." But the application needed approval from Clements before moving on to the governor's desk, and last month Clements turned him down.

"I can find no reason to grant a waiver to the criteria for executive clemency at this time," Clements wrote in a letter to Havens. "I would encourage you to continue with your current positive institutional behavior."

In 2007, the nineteen-year-old Havens was the target of a sting operation by an auto theft task force led by detectives from the Arvada Police Department. Driving a stolen Audi, he was boxed in by undercover police vehicles in a Target parking lot. As recounted in my 2010 feature "Wheel Man," Havens was unarmed and his vehicle was pinned against other cars. But a detective who fired nine rounds into his car told investigators that the Audi was trying to break free and could have run him over if he hadn't acted to defend himself.

Havens has disputed police accounts of the shooting. An affidavit filed by Ellis Armistead, a former Lakewood police officer, contends that the police statements are inconsistent and that the situation didn't justify deadly force.

The shooting left Havens with almost no mobility -- he has limited movement in one arm, enough to operate a motorized chair -- and ongoing health problems. One of the most disabled prisoners in the entire system, his care is estimated to cost upwards of $200,000 a year. With the support of DOC officials, he'd sought and had been granted a medical parole in 2010, but it was abruptly canceled after Arvada police chief Don Wick objected to his release. The Arvada city attorney's office later offered to drop its opposition to his parole if Havens would withdraw a civil lawsuit against the detective who shot him; Havens attorney William Muhr called the proposition "completely improper."

Depositions are now underway in the lawsuit, but a trial date has not been set. Meanwhile, the state of Havens's health continues to worsen. After the 2011 closure of Fort Lyon, DOC's prison for inmates with special medical needs, he was transferred to an infirmary at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center. Havens claims his care is now largely in the hands of inmate orderlies rather than doctors or nurses. Medical records indicate that he's battled recurrent infections, and one provider reported his prognosis as poor "given the likelihood of future serious infections."

Doctors at Denver Health Medical Center have urged surgery to deal with pain and degeneration associated with Havens's abnormal spinal curvature, a condition known as scoliosis, as well as a wrist fusion procedure. But DOC administrators have declined to approve the surgery.

"My back is getting worse, with four fractured vertebrae, and immediate surgery is the only answer," Havens wrote in a recent letter to Westword.

His sister Chrystal, who visits Havens often, says the DOC's minimalist approach to treating him is costing much more in the long run. "The last two weeks, he was taken to the hospital four different times for emergency care," she says. Because of his chronic infections and compromised immune system, she was told last week that she would need to wear a mask and gown to visit him.

After Clements rejected his clemency application, Havens filed a notice of intent to sue the state over his medical care. Among other complaints, the document claims that neglectful night-shift attendants have left him to lie in urine and feces for hours at a time: "I have brought all these issues up through chains of commands, but it has not done anything, in fact they just run and ignore all my letters, kites, phone calls from families.... These are all acts of cruel and unusual punishment, medical malpractice, as well as medical neglect and failure to properly train by the Department of Corrections."

More from our Follow That Story archive circa 2010: "Darrell Havens: Car thief paralyzed by Arvada police shooting in standoff over parole deal."


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21 comments
freetheplant
freetheplant

The guy will be forever sentenced and confined to either his wheelchair or a bed until the day he dies. What purpose does it serve keeping him in a prison infirmary ? I think the system's goal is to keep him in prison with hopes that his recurring infections and poor medical care result in his death. I don't even see why a  car thief who was made a quadriplegic by being shot at the time of his apprehension  should even be in prison. How is being shot and paralyzed by law enforcement for stealing a car not enough punishment ?

The guy isn't even guilty of murder. He's been locked up for 4 years and some people have served 4 years for murder and then set free. Sure he stole a car but his being paralyzed will stay with him for LIFE. What the system is doing to him is gross and disgusting.

The 8th amendment says> Prohibition and excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. Excessive bail shall not be required , nor excessive fines imposed , nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. 

As far as his lawsuit goes, he's got a strong case. He will be punished until the day he dies because of him being paralyzed. He's not going to be stealing anymore cars or attempting anymore crimes. It's very likely that he could end up getting a multi-million dollar lawsuit as well as getting released from prison. Should he die in that prison infirmary from poor medical care, his family members can continue that lawsuit and THEY can end up with big money. How is justice being served with him being locked up as a quadriplegic with poor healthcare inside a prison infirmary ? This whole story reads like something out of a Stephen King novel.



TechnoNeo
TechnoNeo

This sad story clearly illustrates the line between consequences and punishment. It is a shame that grown men can let their personal feelings dictate their professional conduct.

Quad
Quad

wheelchair-bound is not a PC term.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Cops NEVER fire at an unarmed suspect !

How dare you question law-enforcement's integrity !

Are you trying to get shot ?

Discharge of a firearm by a police officer = PAID VACATION !!!

Pam199
Pam199

Alan, thank you for keeping us updated on this.  CDOC has thousands of people who need better education and job training. People who are going to be released soon and need to be successful in the community.  Reentry support is limited.  And most of those things are unavailable to many because of budgetary constraints.  We are spending millions of dollars on catastrophic medical care.  Darrell could be on an ankle bracelet or GPS system if they are truly worried that he is going to reoffend.  Darrell has a life sentence because of his crime.  His family is ready to take care of him.  This needs to stop.

Dan Troxell
Dan Troxell

Honestly he doesnt need to serve a sentence in jail after losing the ability of his arms and legs!!! not to mention the article states he should continue "current positive institutional behavior". The man doesnt have a choice about his behavior so just let him go.

Stephen At Half Aspen
Stephen At Half Aspen

Those involved are not peace officers, they're worthless thugs with a badge.

Anthony Shaeffer
Anthony Shaeffer

Just grant him permission since he Never posed a threat to the officer that shot him in the first place. Really messed up how peace officers get away with so much.

Monkey
Monkey

Makes me sick. If they had it their way, they would ignore him all together and let him die. Even caged animals at the zoo get better treatment than a guy shot by a scared little piggy. I think being paralyzed is punishment enough for steeling cars, especially when the shooting that paralyzed him seems un-warrented.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Pam199 And thanks to you, Pam, for commenting. Much appreciated.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Pam199  ... the Torturers and Tormentors at the DOC will NEVER let one of their victims out early ... especially one that illustrates how tigger-happy and violent the cowardly Cops actually are.


BigSteve
BigSteve

@Dan Troxell This guy is only in a wheelchair because he is a violent criminal.  He did it to himself.  Of course, he should be in jail. 

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Dan Troxell Thanks for weighing in, Dan.

BigSteve
BigSteve

@Stephen At Half Aspen Thank God that those worthless thugs with a badge also carry guns.  Otherwise, people like poor old Darryl would not have to waste their bullets on cops.

BigSteve
BigSteve

@Monkey Poor old Darryl was just minding his own business stealing cars.  He didn't do anything except try to kill that cop.  And for no other reason than to save his life, the cop started firing.  Mean old cop.  He should have let Darryl kill him. 

Since we can't have Darryl stealing any more cars or running down any more people, I think we should all go out and steal a car and run down somebody.  That'll show those mean old cops.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Monkey 

Cops = Cowardly Lowlife Criminal Scumbags with badges and guns

Fact.


ahveazey
ahveazey

All we have to confirm that Darrell tried to run over the cop is the word of the cop... Who shot an unarmed man 9 times. What the eff else is he going to say? But of course, cops are always 100% honest and never, ever commit crimes themselves.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@ahveazey Not hard to read between those lines, ahveazey. Thanks for the post.

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