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 Report Highlights Stories of Victims’ Families who Oppose the Death Penalty

DENVER – An ACLU of Colorado report released today highlights 22 stories of families whose loved ones were murdered and why, in the face of such tragedy, they firmly oppose the death penalty. The death penalty is an expensive, ineffective and unjust process that harms victims’ families. Over the course of decades, victims’ families are forced to navigate a complicated legal process and relive the trauma of their loved one’s murder. “There was a trial for the killer’s accomplice that dragged on for eight years because of appeals,” said Gail Rice, whose brother, Denver Police Officer Bruce VanderJagt, was murdered while on duty. “It was enormously stressful… The death penalty means victims’ families are putting their lives on hold for years as they attend new hearings and appeals and relive the murder.”

Ending A Broken System: Colorado’s Expensive, Ineffective and Unjust Death Penalty is a report based on an eight-month ACLU campaign to end the death penalty in Colorado. In addition to the numerous stories of grief and the toll on innocent lives, the report contains detailed data that underscores why the death penalty is a flawed and broken system, including expense, racial bias, cruel and unusual application and it’s ineffectiveness in deterring crime.

The report finds that a death penalty sentence risks making irreversible mistakes. A wave of exonerations in the U.S. proves that the death penalty is often applied to the innocent. When carried out, executions using untested, increasingly unavailable drugs are often botched, torturing defendants and traumatizing corrections officers. Ending a Broken System illustrates that the death penalty is a bloated government program that consumes police time and wastes millions of dollars that could be invested in solving cold cases or expanding services for victims’ families. A death penalty sentence in Colorado depends more on the color of your skin, socio-economic status, quality of your attorney, and where you live than on the seriousness of your crime.

“The severity of the punishment we inflict has limits — imposed by both justice and our common human dignity,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director, Denise Maes. “Governments that respect these limits do not use premeditated executions of their own people as public policy. It is time for Colorado’s legislators to show the moral leadership necessary to end this unjust system.”

Several victims’ family members featured in the report will be available for interviews today, Monday, January 13, 2020. Please direct all media inquiries to ACLU of Colorado.

End Colorado’s Death Penalty is a campaign by ACLU of Colorado in collaboration with Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.


Read the full report:

For more information on the End Colorado’s Death Penalty campaign go to:


The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

Return to News