Feature

Presumed Guilty

The wrongful conviction of Tim Masters is one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in Colorado history.

January 2012

The Interrogation

Shortly after detective Broderick found the knives lined up in Tim’s bedroom, Clyde Masters and an officer picked the sophomore up at school. They brought him to police headquarters. Clyde joked with the officers, agreeably waived his son’s rights to an attorney, and encouraged Tim to tell the police everything he knew. What followed was more than nine hours of charm and chitchat, badgering and bullying, a tag team of at least five detectives playing good cop, bad cop, buddy cop, accusatory cop, mommy cop, and most every flavor of cop in between. Over and over again, the teen maintained that he did not have anything to do with the murder.

The following is compressed dialogue from the interviews that day. Asked why he didn’t report what he saw as soon as he considered it might have been a body, Masters said, “Because I was afraid I would be accused of it.”

“Why would you have been accused of it?” one cop asked.

“Because it happened so close to my house.”

“Why were you afraid that you’d be accused?”

“Watching so much TV.”

“What do you mean?”

“Seeing people on TV shows be sent to jail for something they didn’t do.”

About six hours into the questioning, Broderick entered the interrogation room. “Tim, I’m Jim. Jim Broderick,” he opened the interview. “Man, it’s hot in here, isn’t it? How are you doing?”

“Alright.”

“What do you think about all of this?”

“I don’t know,” Tim said, sitting in a stiff-backed metal chair.

“Relax a little bit,” Broderick said.… “Have you had any bad experiences with women?”

“No.… But out in California, I had a girlfriend.”

“Yeah. How’d that go?”

“I moved away from her.”

“Did you ever have, you know, don’t know if this embarrasses you?”

“I was too young then.”

“Too young?”

“I was only six…,” Masters said seriously.

“OK.”

“…and she was in love with me but I wasn’t in love with her.”

Laughing, Broderick responded: “Well, that will happen.”

As they continued, Masters repeatedly denied any involvement, but Broderick remained unconvinced. “Are you mad at me? Tell me. You’ve got to express your feelings,” Broderick said.

“Sort of.”

“Why?”

“Because…”

“Because why?”

“…I thought you believed in me.”

“Did I ever tell you that I thought you didn’t do it?”

“No,” Masters said.

During a break Clyde came in to speak with his son alone. The audio recorder was still running.

“I don’t believe this,” Tim told his father.

“Tim, if you did it, buddy, you’re going to have to say something so I can go get some damn help.”

“But I didn’t do it.”

“Huh,” Clyde said, intermittently stern and desperate as he talked to his son.

“But I didn’t do it.”

“If you did it, I’m going to shoot you. ’Cause you know, it’s no game, or nothing else, bud….”

“They’re screwing my whole life, too. For something I didn’t do.”

“You know I’ll try and help you all I can. You know that. And I’ll back you up all I can. You know that, too.”

“They keep on tellin’ me I’m lying.”

“Well, you better be as honest as possible. And that way, by golly, maybe we can get everything straightened out here and settled…. You got just to open up to ’em and let ’em know everything you know.”

After Clyde left, Broderick came back into the room. “OK, Tim,” Broderick said. “I just found something…. And this may be what we’re looking for. See that,” he said, showing Tim a drawing of a body being dragged across a field, bleeding with arrows flying past, that the police had just discovered in Masters’ backpack. “Now, if you’re man enough to do this—and I know you really did plan all of this—be man enough to talk about it.”

“I would if I would’ve done it.”

“No! You DID do it. And you need to start gettin’ that in your mind. OK.…”

Masters tried to explain that he’d made the sketch to show a classmate what might have happened near his trailer.

“Wait a minute,” Broderick said. “Let me finish. Let me finish…. Nobody is this preoccupied unless they did it. You were preoccupied with what happened because you did it.”

“I didn’t…,” Masters said, shaking his head.

“.…You fantasized about this all this time. The fantasy finally came to an end the other night. It wasn’t a fantasy anymore you could think about. You got to do it. You got to be part of it. You got to do it for a change. Instead of reading about it. Instead of drawing about it. And it was very self-fulfilling,” Broderick said. “It was what it was all about…. Are you going to have to do it, again? Do you feel compelled to do it, again?”

“I told you, I didn’t do it!”

One comment Broderick made would resonate years later. “This is not going to end,” he told Masters. “It’s not going to end. It’s not going to end for me.… I know you did do it.”

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