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. 

Aurora Pays $110K for Unlawful Detention and Tasing of Darsean Kelley

Police tased Kelley in the back as he said, “I know my rights”

DENVER – The City of Aurora will pay $110,000 to settle claims brought by ACLU of Colorado on behalf of Darsean Kelley, a young Black man who was unlawfully stopped, detained, and tased in the back by Aurora police just as he said “I know my rights.”

A video, taken from an officer’s body camera and released by the ACLU last September, gained national attention and accumulated more than 1 million views.

“Through constructive, respectful dialogue, the ACLU of Colorado and the City of Aurora, through the City Attorney’s Office, were able to work together to resolve this case promptly and without expensive and time-consuming litigation,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.  “The ACLU commends the City of Aurora for its willingness to come to the table in good faith to find a resolution that is fair to Mr. Kelley and beneficial for taxpayers of the City.”

“However, the decision of the Aurora City Attorney’s Office to fairly and promptly resolve this matter stands in stark contrast to the actions of the Aurora Police Department, which at every turn has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing or need for policy change even in the face of public outrage and irrefutable video evidence of misconduct,” said Silverstein. “The Aurora Police Department has no written policy whatsoever explaining when police can and cannot fire their tasers.  And the Department desperately needs truly independent citizen oversight to hold the police accountable for wrongdoing.”

On February 19, 2016, Kelley and his cousin were walking along 14th Avenue in Aurora when they were stopped by Aurora police officers who were responding to a call about a potential crime at a nearby apartment complex.  The officers had no description of a suspect and no reason to believe that Kelley had been involved in that incident or in any other criminal activity.

The officers refused to tell Kelley why he was being stopped.  He asked several times if the officers were detaining him.  Eventually, they confirmed that he was, in fact, being detained.  As they yelled orders at him, he repeatedly asked “for what?”

Following the officers’ orders, Kelley placed his hands in the air and turned around.  He kept his hands up with his fingers outstretched, making it clear that he was not a physical threat.  He briefly pointed to his chest as he declared, “I know my rights.”  At that moment, an officer shot him in the back with a taser.  He lost all muscular control and fell straight backwards, striking his head on the street pavement.

Aurora Police arrested Kelley and charged him with disorderly conduct.  He spent three days in jail before he could bond out.  ACLU lawyers successfully defended Kelley in the criminal case, winning dismissal after filing a motion arguing that the unlawful street detention violated the Fourth Amendment.

Aurora police internal affairs and a convening of the Department’s purportedly independent Internal Review Board (IRB), which focuses on cases of “significant community interest,” reviewed the incident and determined that the use of force against Kelley was “reasonable, appropriate and within policy.”  The IRB concluded that nothing in the incident “warrants further investigation.”

“That the Aurora Police Department reviewed this incident and gave it a departmental stamp of approval shows the Department is incapable of policing itself,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace, who led the settlement negotiation for ACLU of Colorado.  “If what happened to Darsean Kelley is business as usual for the Aurora Police Department – as their own review board found – then Aurora taxpayers can expect to continue to foot the bill while black and brown men suffer at the hands of police.”

In addition to Silverstein and Wallace, Kelley was represented by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Ahson Wali of Elinoff and Associates LLC and Dan Recht and Megan Downing of Recht Kornfeld PC.


View Knew His Rights. Got Tased Anyway.

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