Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

ACLU lawyers file suit on behalf of innocent woman wrongfully arrested, jailed, and strip searched

Lawyers for the ACLU of Colorado filed suit today on behalf of Mercedes Archuleta, a Thornton mother of nine children with no criminal record whom Lakewood police wrongly and groundlessly listed in a warrant as a suspect in a misdemeanor harassment case.

According to the complaint, a state trooper found the erroneous warrant when he stopped Ms. Archuleta’s husband for a minor traffic violation. The officer pulled Ms. Archuleta rudely from her car while she was nursing her baby, handcuffed her without providing her any opportunity to tie up her blouse, and took her to the Jefferson County Jail. The complaint further alleges that the Sheriff’s employee in charge of booking consulted the law enforcement computer, realized that Ms. Archuleta was not the suspect police intended to arrest, but nevertheless subjected her to a humiliating strip search and locked her in a cell to wait for her husband to bail her out.

“Our client has described these events as the worst day of her life,” said Timothy Macdonald, of Arnold and Porter, who is handling the case as an ACLU cooperating attorney. “Lakewood officials acknowledge that she had nothing whatsoever to do with the misdemeanor under investigation and that the police detective should never have asked for a warrant with our client’s name and identifying information. The groundless warrant lingered in police computers for months, until a minor traffic stop prompted the state patrol officer to run a check on Mercedes and her husband. The arresting officer treated our client shamefully. Even worse, the Jefferson County jailer knew that the warrant named the wrong person, but nevertheless subjected our client to a degrading and unconstitutional strip search and then locked her in a cell.”

According to the complaint, Lakewood detective Michelle Wagner reviewed police reports written by patrol officers about an incident that violated Lakewood’s ordinance against harassment. The victim stated that the perpetrator’s name was “Mercedes Archuleta,” but she provided almost no additional information. A woman who matched the suspect’s general description is listed in the state’s criminal database as sometimes using that name. Instead of pursuing that lead, however, the detective instead located the ACLU’s client in a database of motor vehicle records.

“The detective did not have probable cause to believe that our client was the suspect,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “Had the detective contacted our client, the matter could have been cleared up quickly. Instead, the officer obtained a warrant for our client’s arrest. Such reckless police practices pose a risk to everyone in our community, particularly those with a somewhat common name.”

Defendants in the lawsuit are Detective Wagner; Shayne Butler, the state trooper who made the arrest; and D.L. Mandelko, the Jefferson County jailer who booked Mrs. Archuleta and ordered the strip search. The complaint also names Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink and challenges the constitutionality of the jail’s strip search policy.

About the ACLU of Colorado
The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the principles of the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy and public education.  The ACLU Foundation of Colorado works to protect the rights of all Coloradans.

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