Some Thoughts on Tim Masters' Release

January 23 2008, 7:09 AM

In a packed courtroom in Fort Collins today, amidst television camera crews from 20 national and regional networks, Judge Joe Weatherbee vacated Tim Masters murder conviction and ordered him released on a personal recognizance bond. The hearing was attended by 40 of Masters' relatives as well as lawyers, law professors and members of law enforcement. 9News streamed it live on the Internet. CNN gave it prominent attention from the weekend through today. If you haven't yet acquainted yourself with the case, check out the Denver Post's special section on the case. To date, more than 200 inmates have been freed from prison after DNA testing either not available or not produced at their trials established their innocence. Most receive a day's worth of press. How many of their names can the public remember afterwards? I'd be astonished if there was a single one. The public is more apt to believe in guilty until proven innocent than the other way around. Guilt sells in the media and typically, stories about innocence don't get much play. The Tim Masters case has been an exception. Something gelled with the public about Tim Masters. What was it? The baby-faced photo of him at age 15 when the murder occurred? Disapproval of the shaky evidence used to convict him -- a shrink who never met Masters opining to a jury that his violent high school drawings were indicative of someone who symbolically wanted to kill his mother? Or that the public is taking greater interest in the proven fallibilities of our criminal justice system and saying, "Enough." I hope it's the latter. I also hope everyone recognizes the dedication and years of effort Tim Masters' lawyers, Maria Liu, David Wymore and the rest of the defense team (including their investigators and experts) devoted to his case . Public defenders are underfunded, understaffed and underpaid. They work very hard for very little glory. What doesn't get enough attention is that they are also highly skilled and dedicated. Our hats should be off to them today.

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