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Colorado Supreme Court orders new trial in sexual abuse case

A 35-year-old man who spent six years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl will receive a new trial. He appeared at an arraignment hearing in a Colorado courtroom on Feb. 3 and will remain free until he appears in court again on a $25,000 bond. He would not have been eligible for parole until 2024 under the terms of his 2013 custodial sentence of 12 years to life.

The man's case turned in July 2019 when the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that one of the detectives who questioned him used coercive techniques. The detective involved was fired in 2015 for having sexual relations with a crime victim and then lying about it. He was subsequently sentenced to four years of probation after pleading guilty to an official misconduct charge. The court reached its decision after learning that the detective told the man that he would likely be released if he accepted at least some degree of guilt.

The man's attorneys sought to have the interview excluded before his 2013 trial, but they did not question the voluntary nature of his statements. The Colorado Court of Appeals determined that this omission amounted to a waiver of any future coercion claims and denied the man's appeal. The Supreme Court's ruling voids the original charges and paves the way for a new trial.

Police detectives are usually highly experienced and skilled interrogators. This is why criminal defense attorneys may urge individuals who find themselves in police interview rooms to consult with a lawyer before answering any questions. When interviews have been conducted without legal counsel present, attorneys may scrutinize the transcripts to ensure that rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution were not violated. If detectives used threats, intimidation or other forms of coercion to obtain a confession, attorneys could seek to have criminal charges dismissed.

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