Larimer County settlement would give Tim Masters about $4 million

The Denver Post
By Miles Moffeit, The Denver Post
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Larimer County, CO

Tim Masters, 38, spent a decade behind bars before advanced DNA testing resulted in his release in 2008. (Denver Post file photo)

Larimer County commissioners have reached a settlement to compensate Tim Masters in the range of $4 million for his wrongful imprisonment in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick, according to sources close to the negotiations.

The deal, set for a formal vote by the board on Tuesday, would pay damages resulting from the conviction.

At the time, prosecutors Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, both now Larimer County judges, used a psychological theory in the absence of any physical evidence to persuade a jury to convict Masters.

Masters, 38, spent a decade behind bars before he was released in 2008 after advanced DNA testing found no trace of Masters' genetic material as well as DNA that may point to another suspect. There has been no new arrest in the case.

Masters' attorneys discovered that the prosecutors and Detective Jim Broderick concealed evidence that would have aided Masters at his 1998 trial.

Separate negotiations between Masters' attorney David Lane and the city of Fort Collins have not yet resulted in advanced settlement talks, sources say.

Colorado public defender Doug Wilson said the Larimer County deal is historic.

"I don't ever remember a settlement on a wrongful imprisonment in the past 28 years," he said. "I hope this sends a signal to law enforcement and prosecutors that they absolutely have to turn over all evidence and do thorough investigations before they convict somebody."

Masters, his attorneys and county commissioners declined to comment on details of the settlement talks, saying they were forbidden to speak under a confidentiality agreement that expires Tuesday, when details will be released.

Masters' lawsuit sought damages under civil-rights law, saying Gilmore and Blair violated his constitutional rights by using selected and manufactured evidence to falsely accuse him. The two denied the accusations.

The Colorado Supreme Court regulatory office had censured Gilmore and Blair for ethical misconduct by withholding evidence during the murder trial. That also was a milestone in legal circles — the first time sitting state judges had been disciplined for actions committed before they took the bench.

Broderick is the subject of a reopened perjury investigation by Weld County prosecutors after Masters' attorneys found additional evidence that shows he gave conflicting testimony about his involvement in a surveillance operation of Masters.

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