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On Friday afternoon, the Denver District Attorney’s Office released a long-awaited report of the police officer-involved shooting of 17-year-old Jessica “Jessie” Hernandez. The teenager was killed when two officers fired on the vehicle she was driving on the morning of January 26, 2015 in northeast Denver. Denver District Attorney Mitchell Morrissey‘s 38-page letter states “the facts of this investigation show that Officer Jordan and Officer Green were lawfully doing their jobs that morning.”
In a vacuum, the report might seem like typical bookkeeping. Two officers used their weapons. A civilian was killed. An investigation into whether criminal charges would be filed was required.
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But in a post-Ferguson, post-Baltimore, post-Cleveland nation, reports like this are being closely scrutinized—perhaps, more than ever before—by the public, administrators, media, and community activists.
That’s part of the reason why, shortly after the release, Colorado Progressive Coalition’s Alex Landau was at a print shop stapling together petitions aimed at recalling Morrissey, who is term-limited and whose successor will be elected in 2016. The Recall DA Mitch Morrissey petition takes aim at how “no charges have been filed in officer-involved shootings and other excessive use of force cases” (full text from the petition is below) in Morrissey’s 11 years as Denver’s DA.
Landau knows this stat from personal experience: In 2011, he received a $795,000 settlement from the city after being beaten in 2009 by police officers. “My primary concern with Mitch Morrissey, above everything, is his lack of indictments,” Landau says. “Unfortunately, with the recent verdict, we have even more of a reason to get these circulating.”
The petition officially launched on June 5, which means that the organizers have a total of 60 days to collect more than 100,000 signature and deliver the docs to the Secretary of State’s office. (A call requesting comment from the DA’s office was not immediately returned.) Volunteers will be at Civic Center this weekend collecting signatures at the People’s Fair. And while the ultimate goal is to remove Morrissey from office, Landau hopes to also bring attention to next year’s election to fill his spot. The race is set to be a must-watch political contest. There are already three candidates: Kenneth Boyd, a current prosecutor in the DA’s office and nephew of Bill Ritter (onetime Denver DA and governor), University of Colorado regent Michael Carrigan, and state representative Beth McCann.
“I think this is an important step because it is the first time in 11 years that people have had a chance to focus on the district attorney’s race,” Landau says. “We need to make sure that we have the right person in office.”
TEXT FROM THE PETITION:
“Under Mitch Morrissey’s 11 year watch as district attorney numerous excessive uses of force and civil rights violations by Denver law enforcement has cost city taxpayers millions of dollars in settlement sums. Yet Morrissey has failed to prosecute any of these cases. No charges have been filed in officer involved shootings and other excessive use of force cases. His failure to prosecute gives law enforcement officers the green light to continue to prey on Denver’s community. Morrissey has a reputation of refusing to reopen cases where evidence is present to exonerate people of crimes which they may not have committed. Morrissey has a pattern of using his office and city resources to intimidate community members especially those community members protesting law enforcement misconduct. Mitch Morrissey also abused his discretion by charging people under state law for marijuana possession in 2006 after voters in Denver allowed adults to possess an ounce. Morrissey frequently fails to prosecute those responsible for violating inmate’s rights. Morrissey consistently engages in a practice of undermining the authority of other public officials who attempt to hold abusive law enforcement officers accountable. For all of the reasons the Denver community demands Mitch Morrissey’s recall.”