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 sue state troopers who illegally entered Grand Junction home and killed Jason Kemp

“Recklessly deficient” police training asserted as a contributing factor in wrongful shooting death."

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed suit today in federal district court against three Colorado State Patrol officers – and two training supervisors – in the wrongful death of an unarmed Grand Junction man who was shot at point-blank range and killed last summer when he refused to allow officers to enter his home without a warrant.

The ACLU’s suit was filed on behalf of Connie and Keith Kemp, the parents of Jason Alan Kemp, a 31-year-old Mesa State College graduate, who died at the scene after Trooper Ivan Lawyer shot him in the chest.

The lawsuit asserts that Lawyer and two additional troopers at the scene, Corporal Kirk Firko and Sergeant Chad Dunlap, are responsible for Jason’s wrongful death as well as the illegal police actions that led to it, including attempting to break down Jason’s door when he told them they needed to get a warrant.

“The state troopers were investigating a minor accident that resulted, at most, in minimal damage to a neighbor’s lawn,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “They suspected Jason was responsible for this minor accident and may have been driving under the influence of alcohol. But that provided no legal justification for proceeding without a warrant, drawing their guns, and attempting to kick down Jason’s front door. It certainly provided no justification for shooting him dead.”

“Jason was killed because he did what every American has the right to do. He insisted that police comply with the Fourth Amendment and obtain a warrant before entering a person’s home,” Silverstein continued.

The lawsuit also names as defendants additional employees of the State Patrol—Training Officer Ralph Turano and one or more yet-to-be-identified officers, currently designated as John Doe—whom the ACLU asserts were responsible for the constitutionally-deficient training of Lawyer, Firko, and Dunlap. An ACLU review of Colorado State Patrol training materials preceded the decision to include the Colorado State Patrol’s training supervisors as defendants.

“Two supervisory officers—a corporal and a sergeant—were present at the scene and supported or participated in this lawless action of forcefully breaking into a home without a warrant to investigate a minor DUI,” Silverstein continued. “Only recklessly deficient training could account for supervisors’ failure to stop the illegal warrantless entry before it resulted in the tragic escalation that unjustifiably took Jason’s life.”

A Mesa County Grand Jury indicted Lawyer and Firko in connection with the incident last fall. While declining to charge Lawyer with second degree murder or manslaughter, the grand jury did return indictments for criminally negligent homicide, second degree assault, criminal trespass and other charges. Firko faces charges of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Dunlap was not charged with any crime.

“The criminal prosecution of Lawyer and Firko, even if successful, will not touch the supervisors and higher-ups at the Colorado State Patrol who share responsibility for Jason’s very avoidable death, nor will it bring to light the serious institutional failures of training and supervision that allowed this tragedy to occur” said Rebecca T. Wallace, ACLU Staff Attorney. “This lawsuit will hold accountable the highest-ranking supervisory officer on the scene, Sgt. Dunlap, as well as the State Patrol employees who should have educated the troopers fully on the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, the limits of the exceptions, and the proper limits on use of deadly force.”

In addition to Silverstein and Wallace, the Kemps are represented by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Paul G. Karlsgodt, Paul S. Enockson, Erica Gann Kitaev and Nathan A. Schacht of Baker Hostetler.

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