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  • 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. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

NO KNOCK WARRANT THAT LED TO DENVER MAN’S DEATH SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ISSUED, ACLU SAYS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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."



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