David Bueno, convicted killer, may get a new trial after ruling DA's office withheld evidence
In 2010, we reported that David Bueno's murder conviction had been vacated because of withheld evidence. Attorney David Lane pointed the finger of blame at then-18th Judicial District DA Carol Chambers -- a claim vigorously denied by a Chambers associate committed to appealing the decision.
More photos, documents below.
Now, three years later, an appeals court has upheld the previous ruling, with the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar using the case as an example of how the death penalty is applied unfairly. Details and more below.
We've been covering this case for more than five years. "Arapahoe County DA Charges Death-Penalty Fees to State," a February 2008 feature by Alan Prendergast, spotlighted the prosecution of Bueno, one of two cons charged with killing a fellow prisoner in 2004.
As we've reported, District Attorney Chambers sought the death penalty against Bueno, which puzzled attorney David Lane at the time. In an interview with Prendergast, he said Chambers's decision to seek the ultimate punishment against Bueno and fellow suspect Alejandro Perez, who was acquitted two years ago, "has been a head-scratcher from day one... In the history of the state, Colorado has never sought the death penalty for a prisoner killing another prisoner."
Bueno was ultimately convicted of slaying the prisoner in question, Jeffrey Heird. But in October 2010, District Judge Douglas Tallman vacated the conviction based on the assertion that the DA's office had withheld what's described by the Denver Post as "a letter found by a prison nurse minutes after the killing and written by the Aryan Nation that threatened to 'exterminate' white inmates who 'refuse to accept their proud race.'" The letter wasn't entered into evidence until more than a year after Bueno's conviction.
The complete court document is below, but here's an excerpt from the decision from District Judge Douglas Tallman:
Apparently, someone from the District Attorney's office made the conscious decision this information was not to be included in discovery because it was not relevant.... The Trial Court cannot say with certainty the District Attorney acted in bad faith by withholding relevant and possibly exculpatory evidence.... [But] it is apparent to the Trial Court that a conscious decision was made at some point early in this case to keep the information from the Defendant by separating these documents from the balance of Watson's working file.Tallman's conclusion?
For the foregoing reasons, the Trial Court finds the Defendant's right to present a full, fair, and complete defense to the charges, his right to due process under the State and Federal constitutions, and his right to be provided all relevant and possible exculpatory evidence that might negate his guilt have been violated. Thus, the Court does GRANT Defendant's motion for new trial.Continue for more about the latest ruling in the David Bueno case, including additional photos, an original document and more.