What is one man's life worth? Writer Bryan Schatz explores that existential question, and many others, in 5280's September issue with "Resurrection," his profile of Robert "Rider" Dewey, a Colorado man who spent almost 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor in 1996.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because Dewey was the first beneficiary of Colorado's House Bill 13-1230, Compensation for the Wrongfully Incarcerated, which passed last spring. The law provides reparations for those who have been proven innocent of certain crimes, and while it can result in a significant financial windfall, it's merely a small part of reclaiming one's life.
In "Resurrection," Schatz vividly details the countless ways Dewey and his attorney, Danyel Joffe, battled hopelessness, alientation, and intractable bureaucracy for more than a decade in an effort to secure his release. He reveals "Rider" to be far more deep and complex than his ragged biker persona might suggest, and he paints a touching portrait of a man who stared down the unthinkable injustice he faced with dignity, serenity, and perseverance.
For too long, our nation's lock-'em-up mentality has resulted in overzealous law enforcement and prosecutors making circumstantial—and occasionally false—cases against the accused in the name of just getting someone behind bars. As forensic techniques evolve and groups like the Innocence Project and the Colorado Justice Review Project arise, we now have opportunities to right some of these egregious wrongs. These rectifications can't move quickly enough, because although stories like Robert Dewey's are extraordinary, they still happen all the time.
Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.