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 Testimony on SB 64 – Bill to Allow Death Sentences from Non-Unanimous Juries

ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley presented the following testimony to the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to SB 64, a bill that would have allowed death sentences to be given by non-unanimous juries.  The bill was defeated.

Thank you, Madam Chair.  My name is Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, Executive Director of the ACLU of Colorado, and I testify in opposition to Senate Bill 64.

There are only three states that currently allow non-unanimous juries in death penalty sentencing—Florida, Alabama and Delaware.  Two of these states are considering legislation to require unanimous juries, and one is moving closer to ending the death penalty entirely.  There is no reason for Colorado to be the only state moving in the other direction, possibly unconstitutionally, to allow non-unanimous juries in death penalty cases.  Death is an irreversible punishment that should never be allowed under weaker standards than we require for something like shoplifting.  Juries are already structurally biased toward death sentences because jurors have to be death-qualified, willing to give the death penalty, to even serve on a death penalty jury.  If juries in Colorado have not been imposing the death penalty as often, perhaps that should be seen as a sign that we are moving away from a bad and broken system, not as a reason to make executions easier.

By nearly all accounts, the death penalty is useless as a deterrent, and in fact murder rates are higher in states using the death penalty than in those that do not.  Even with unanimous juries, many innocent people across this nation have been given death sentences only to be exonerated many years later.  The last thing we should be doing is increasing the likelihood of fatal mistakes here in Colorado.

Even apart from bigger-picture issues with the death penalty, there are many problems with non-unanimous juries.  A non-unanimous sentence would be seen as less valid and more open to challenge.  A non-unanimous jury is more likely to give death after a mistaken conviction, and in fact, Florida, with non-unanimous juries, has the highest rate of exonerations after mistaken death sentences in the country.  We should not adopt legislation that will make it more likely to execute someone who is innocent, someone who is mentally ill, or someone who is marginalized or poor or who simply did not have good counsel.  Please vote against Senate Bill 64.

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