Colorado Rights Blog


  • 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.

Who are the ACLU’s clients?

Christina Ann FourHorn

Christina Ann FourHorn is 34 years old and lives in Sterling, Colorado with her husband and daughter. In addition to being a full-time wife and mom, Christina also works full time at night taking care of disabled adults.

On March 12, 2007, Christina was in the shower when officers from the Sterling Police Department surrounded her home and then arrested her in front of her neighbors.

It was the first time in her life that Christina had ever been arrested. The Sterling officers were acting on a warrant obtained by Denver Police Department Detective Mark Dalvit in March, 2006. Dalvit investigated an assault and robbery in Denver. The suspect was the victim’s girlfriend, whom the victim and witnesses identified as Christin Fourhorn, 160 pounds, born April, 1980, tattooed, and who was reportedly returning to her home in Oklahoma. Dalvit ran the name through the Colorado driver’s license database and found the ACLU’s innocent client. Although the computer showed she was 90 pounds heavier and seven years older than the suspect, Dalvit obtained a warrant for Christina’s arrest, on the basis of an affidavit falsely stating that she was the person the witnesses identified. A Denver police department spokesperson later defended Dalvit’s methodology as one that “followed our investigative procedures.” Christina spent five terrifying days in jail and nearly lost her job as a result of the erroneously-obtained warrant.

Christina spent 5 days in jail, during which time a Denver detective accused Christina of cheating on her husband with the alleged victim and lying to avoid being caught, and Denver officials refused offers by Christina’s husband to provide documentation proving they had arrested the wrong person. Christina was ultimately released on bail. A few weeks later, when she drove from Sterling to Denver for her next court date, she found out for the first time that Denver had already dismissed the case against her —no one had bothered, however, to tell that to Christina or her lawyer.

Christina’s arrest was published in the local small-town newspapers, and she nearly lost her job because the rules prevented her from return to work until the charge was resolved. After the arrest, Christina accessed a commercial records-search website and was able, in matter of minutes, to locate a Christin Blue Fourhorn, born in April 1980, and living in Oklahoma.

Jose Ernesto Ibarra

Jose Ernesto Ibarra, born in Texas, is 19 years old and lives with his wife, two sons, and mother-in-law in Denver, Colorado, where he works full-time in construction.

On July 2, 2007, Jose was arrested and imprisoned by Denver Sheriff Department deputies. Denver employees had erroneously determined that Jose was the same person as a criminal suspect named Jose Cayetano Ibarra who had several outstanding warrants for his arrest, despite the fact that Jose Cayetano Ibarra had a different birthdate than Jose, a different middle name, and looked nothing like Jose.

Jose spent the next 26 days in jail, during which Denver officers ignored his pleas that he was the wrong person. Denver also ignored efforts by Jose’s mother-in-law, Carmen Mendoza, and his wife, Itzel Mendoza, to provide documentation that Jose was not the criminal suspect. A Denver County Court judge agreed that Jose’s fingerprints should be compared to the criminal suspect’s fingerprints—there is no evidence, however, that Denver ever made such a comparison.

By July 24, 2008, Itzel and Jose believed that the courts had finally resolved the mistake made by Denver officers and had dismissed Jose from the warrants for Jose Cayetano Ibarra. Believing that her husband was finally going to be released, Itzel went to pick her husband up—only to be told that Denver would continue to imprison her husband based upon an additional warrant for Jose Cayetano Ibarra for a traffic violation in Adams County. When Itzel explained that the courts had finally cleared up this mistake that had already kept her husband in jail for more than three weeks, the Denver officer responded only that Jose would be held in jail unless she drove to Adams County and paid a $274 traffic fine that Jose Cayetano Ibarra owed there. Rather than allow her husband to remain wrongfully imprisoned, Itzel went to Adams County, only to be informed that the fine had to be paid in Denver. She drove back to Denver and paid the fine, and Jose was finally released on July 27, 2008.

During his time in jail, Jose was unable to work and unable to provide for his son Jose Antonio and his wife Itzel, who was pregnant at the time of Jose’s arrest with their son Ernesto. Jose missed Jose Antonio’s first birthday, and also Jose Antonio’s first steps.

Muse Jama

Muse Jama, 27, is a legal permanent resident who left Somalia to come to the United States in 1994. Muse is a Denver resident and currently majors in biology at Metro State.

On September 21, 2007, Muse was home studying for an exam when Denver police officers knocked on his door and declared they had a warrant for his arrest. The officers asked for Muse’s identification, and Muse gave the officers his driver’s license, Social Security card and student identification card.

Unbeknownst to Muse at the time, the officers did not actually have a warrant for his arrest, but rather had an arrest warrant for a criminal suspect named Ahmed Alia, a person Muse has never known or met. As Muse would later discover, Alia has distinct facial scars, and the warrant for Alia was for an alleged auto theft in Denver in March of 2007—a date when Muse was with his family on spring break in San Diego, California.

The officers, who had a picture of Ahmed Alia with them at the time of the arrest, knew that Muse wasn’t Ahmed Alia—one of the officers said, “I don’t think this is the right guy. He doesn’t have any of the scars. Doesn’t look like the guy we’re looking for.” Nevertheless, the officers arrested Muse and took him to jail, telling him that if there was indeed a mistake, he would be back home “in two hours.” Muse didn’t return home for eight days.

During his time in jail, Muse was forced to answer to the name Ahmed Alia and was never brought before a judge. As a result of his time in jail, he had to drop two classes and struggled to keep up his grades.

When Muse finally appeared in court after being released on bail, the prosecutor acknowledged that there was no way to confuse Muse with the criminal suspect Ahmed Alia, stating, “Your honor, just for the record, the People have a mug shot of the correct defendant in the file. It is obviously not this individual.” The court dismissed Muse from the case.

Samuel Powell Moore

Samuel Powell Moore is a 66 year-old Denver resident who retired after nearly two decades of working for the City and County of Denver in the public hospital, as a sanitation worker and as a traffic engineer.

Denver police officers have arrested Sam four times under an Aurora warrant authorizing the arrest of William Douglas Pipkin, a man Sam has never known or met, and who died in 2004. In 2002, Pipkin allegedly attempted to steal about $450 worth of goods from an Aurora store. When he was caught, Pipkin presented a state identification card he had previously stolen from Sam. The identification card bore no middle name, so Pipkin invented the middle name Earl. An Aurora police officer gave Pipkin a ticket for shoplifting in the name of “Samuel Earl Moore” and noted that Pipkin had a large tattoo of his heart on his arm. When Pipkin did not appear in court, a “failure to appear” warrant issued for “Samuel Earl Moore.”

In 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007, Denver police officers wrongfully arrested Sam under the warrant for Pipkin, despite the difference in the middle name and Sam’s lack of any tattoos. Each time, Sam was eventually transferred to Aurora Municipal Court, where he was promptly released by the judges who noted in the court file that Sam had no heart tattoo and wasn’t the criminal suspect. After the 2004 arrest, Sam obtained a copy of the court file containing these notations, which he thereafter always carried with him.

In addition, after the 2004 arrest, Aurora placed a warning in the Colorado state criminal database stating that Samuel Powell Moore had no tattoos and was not the same person as the criminal suspect Samuel Earl Moore. The computer database notation instructed officers to verify fingerprints, FBI numbers or state identification numbers before arresting anyone they believed to be Samuel Earl Moore.

In October of 2004, Pipkin died at the Ft. Lyons Correctional Facility.

The database notation did not prevent Sam’s fourth “mistaken identity” arrest in November 2007. Sam was a passenger in a car when Denver police officers conducted a traffic stop. After taking Sam’s identification, the officers said there was a warrant for Sam’s arrest. Despite the database notation and despite Sam’s offer to show the Aurora court docket sheet, he was arrested. He spent 8 days in Denver’s city jail before being transferred to Aurora, where the court promptly released him for the fourth time.

Dennis Michael Smith

Dennis Michael Smith is a 49 year-old public high school teacher who lives with his wife and two children in Denver, Colorado.

Dennis and a colleague went to visit a former student who was being detained at the Denver County Jail on January 19, 2008. Before the visit, Dennis had provided Denver officers his driver’s license number and other identifying information, as required by Denver’s visitation procedures.

When Dennis arrived at the jail and provided his driver’s license, deputies erroneously declared that Dennis was the same person as Dennis Allen Smith, someone with a different middle name, tattoos, a criminal history, and an active arrest warrant. After having been confused with this criminal suspect in the past, Dennis thought the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had straightened things out. He had obtained and kept with him a letter from the CBI, which stated authoritatively that he was not the same person as Dennis Allen Smith. Indeed, the letter explained that CBI had entered a notation to that effect in CCIC, the state’s computerized criminal information database. Dennis told the deputies that the CBI letter was just outside, in his car, but the deputies would not wait for Dennis’s friend to retrieve it. Nor did they check to see if Dennis had the tattoos that were part of the suspect’s description. (He doesn’t.) Dennis was handcuffed and transported to the City jail, where he spent the rest of the day before finally being released.  

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