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. 


December 6, 1999


The no-knock search warrant that authorized a Denver police team to enter the home of Ismael Mena on September 29 should never have been issued, the ACLU charged today. Mena was shot and killed by SWAT team officers as they entered Mena's home to search for illegal drugs. No drugs were ever found.

According to ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein, the affidavit of the investigating officer did not provide enough information to permit the judge to conclude that either drugs or guns would be found on the premises. "If the government officials who authorized the warrant had followed the law, Ismael Mena would be alive today," Silverstein concluded.

"The judge should have ruled that officer's affidavit did not provide sufficient facts to justify a search," Silverstein said. "Moreover, even if a search was justified, and it was not, the officer's affidavit did not provide the additional information that is necessary for a no-knock warrant."

While any request to search a home must be evaluated with care, Silverstein said, judges should be especially wary of requests for no-knock warrants. "No-knock warrants pose a danger to the lives of police officers as well as innocent civilians," Silverstein said.

"Many Colorado residents legally own firearms, and Colorado's controversial 'Make My Day' law increases the risk to police. If police do not successfully communicate their identity in the split-second when they kick down the door, they are likely to encounter gunfire from citizens who believe they are justifiably defending their homes from lawless intruders."

According to the ACLU, the affidavit for the search of Mena's home was deficient in three respects. First, the investigating officer relied entirely on the word of an informant that he labeled as "reliable." "The officer's affidavit provides no facts to support his view that the informant was reliable." Silverstein said. "The Fourth Amendment requires that police officers provide the facts to an independent judge.

It is the judge, not the police  officer, who is supposed to evaluate whether the facts justify a warrant. In this case, however, the judge was forced to accept the police officer's conclusion about the informant's reliability. Thus, it was the investigating officer, not the court, who decided that the informant had previously been reliable."

Second, Silverstein said, the affidavit failed to provide any information to suggest that drugs would be found on the premises, and indeed, none were found. According to the ACLU, the police officer reported only that the informant purchased a rock of cocaine in the residence. "Nothing in the affidavit suggests that the informant provided any evidence that additional drugs would be or could be found in the residence," Silverstein said.  Finally, Silverstein said that the affidavit failed to provide the additional facts that are necessary before a no-knock warrant can issue. "The officer asserted that guns are commonly found in homes when search warrants are served," Silverstein said. "That generalization says nothing about the potential danger that police would face if they knocked on the door of this particular house."

According to Silvertsein, the Supreme Court in 1997 unanimously held that a warrant to search for drugs does not automatically justify a no-knock entry. "The Supreme Court requires facts that are based on the specific case and the specific home to be searched," Silverstein said.. "Police cannot rely on the easy generalization that a drug case means that the suspects inevitably will start shooting or attempt to destroy evidence. The warrant in this case, however, was based on the precise stereotype that the Supreme Court unanimously rejected in 1997."

Return to News