Rape prosecution story: Denver DA, 7News trade inaccuracy charges
Yesterday, we reported about 7News' story on the rate of sex-assault prosecutions under Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, whose on-camera ripping of reporter Keli Rabon was included online; see our original coverage below.
More photos below.
Since then, the tensions between the DA's office and the station have only risen, with the former publishing a list of alleged inaccuracies and omissions from the report, and 7News rebutting each and including documentation to back up its claims.
As we've reported, Rabon's story contends that the Denver DA's office "declines to prosecute 36 percent of all felonies and 71 percent of all felony sex assaults that Denver police bring to prosecutors" -- numbers much higher than those chalked up by plenty of prosecutors in Colorado and beyond. But her efforts to schedule a formal interview with Morrissey on the topic failed.
Moreover, when Rabon and a camera operator caught up with the him in what he characterized as an ambush at his office, the DA explained that he'd turned down the interview request because "I don't believe you tell the truth." He specifically criticized her approach to editing, apparently in reference to a story from last year about local police departments neglecting to test hundreds of rape kits.
The station shared the entire cilp unedited, as well as a sit-down with Morrissey recorded by a member of his own staff; the footage was acquired via an open-records request. See both videos below, along with the rape-prosecution story as aired and more.
Photo by Mark Manger DA's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough in a photo for our 2004 column about "Setting the Record Straight."
After the publication of our story, the DA's office utilized a format called "Setting the Record Straight" (we first highlighted it in a 2004 Message column) to rebut the 7News story, a version of which also appeared in the Denver Post. The response begins like so: "A recent broadcast news story...about filing statistics at the Denver DA's Office includes misinformation and draws conclusions about statistics without meaningful analysis."
As examples, the DA's office presents several items that are said to have been excluded from the report:
• In Denver, District Attorney and DPD policy mandate that police detectives present all of their cases for review, this includes cases with no identified suspect, cases with no physical evidence and cases in which the victim does not want to go forward. Unlike other jurisdictions where detectives may screen out unfileable cases without contacting a DA, every victim in Denver has their case reviewed by a prosecutor. This significantly different approach will obviously affect the refusal rate.
• The Denver DA's Office has a specially selected, trained team of prosecutors who exclusively review and prosecute sexual assault cases. These deputy district attorneys are selected for this assignment because they are passionate about helping victims. Every case that is declined must be independently reviewed by another senior prosecutor to ensure nothing was overlooked.
• Since 1995, we have been part of the Sexual Assault Interagency Council, a collaborative group of police, prosecutors, hospital staff, therapists, service agencies and others, who hold each other accountable for following a sexual assault protocol. Interestingly, the chairperson of this group was also interviewed for the story in question, but her supportive remarks about how Denver's process works were not included in what aired.
• We review every case, individually, on its own merits. We do not measure success by a single statistic; we look to an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate effectiveness (see below for more).
|Mitch Morrissey responding to Keli Rabon during what he termed an "ambush."|
The Denver District Attorney's office declines to prosecute 36 percent of all felonies and 71 percent of all felony sex assaults that Denver police bring to prosecutors, the CALL7 Investigators found.How did 7News respond to these allegations? In detail, and with a barely disguised tone of indignation.
The only Denver statistics available on sexual assault filings came from grant reports from 2010, 2011 and part of 2012 that involved exclusively the review of stranger and acquaintance assaults. The figure reported does not include "all felony sex assaults."
For five months, CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon tried to talk to Morrissey about his refusal rates, but his office said he would not go on camera.
Channel 7 called 5 months ago to ask if the District Attorney would do an interview, and he declined because he had seen Ms. Rabon's work (and saw first-hand how she manipulated interviews). There was no "trying to talk". There was a request, Mr. Morrissey declined, and 5 months later Ms. Rabon ambushed him in the lobby of the Webb Building.
Michelle said she is upset that her case wasn't pursued. After CALL7 Investigators started asking questions, police reopened the investigation.
The case involving "Michelle" was reopened when the victim provided some additional information.
Continue for more about the charges and counter-charges related to the 7News rape prosecution story, including videos and more.