Truesee's Daily Wonder

Truesee presents the weird, wild, wacky and world news of the day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Man Freed From Prison Gets $4,100,000

County settles for $4.1 million in wrongful imprisonment suit

Eliott C. McLaughlin
February 16, 2010 5:24 p.m. EST


Tim Masters jokes with his attorney, Maria Liu, the day after his 2008 release from prison.

Tim Masters jokes with his attorney, Maria Liu, the day after his 2008 release from prison.

(CNN) -- It won't make up for almost a decade of imprisonment, but a $4.1 million settlement is a "good start," one of Tim Masters' attorneys said Tuesday.

The Larimer County, Colorado, Board of Commissioners voted earlier Tuesday to settle a lawsuit that Masters filed after a judge exonerated him on a murder charge that put him behind bars in 1999.

"There's no dollar figure that's going to give him back his 10 years," said David Wymore, one of the attorneys who represented Masters in the case. "Tim just wishes this never happened to him, but it did."

Masters was 15 when Fort Collins, Colorado, police began investigating him in the murder of 37-year-old Peggy Hettrick, who was found murdered and sexually mutilated in a field near Masters' family home.

He was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of an expert witness who said he fit the profile of a sexual predator. A judge freed Masters in 2008 after new evidence was presented in the case. The crime remains unsolved.

Masters' co-counsel David Lane emphasized there is still a lawsuit pending against the city and that Tuesday's settlement represented only a "good start" to compensating a man who was "framed for a crime he did not commit."

Wymore, who also represented Masters in the criminal proceedings that saw the charges against him dismissed, said he is pleased with the settlement, but feels "someone should apologize to Tim one day because it's not just an accident."

Case History


In 1987, a bicyclist found the maimed body of Peggy Hettrick, 37, near the home of Tim Masters.

Masters, then 15, quickly became the top suspect in the slaying, but it was not until 1999 that police and prosecutors saw Masters convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison.

In hearings that began in September 2007, Masters' new defense team alleged police and prosecutorial misconduct in the investigation and trial.

In January 2008, a judge threw out the conviction and freed Masters after DNA evidence pointed to someone else.

Later that year, Masters' attorneys filed a lawsuit against several Fort Collins police officers and former prosecutors, alleging malicious prosecution, attorney Maria Liu says.

Masters, 38, was unable to comment because of the case pending against Fort Collins and some of its police officers. In a statement from his attorney, Masters said he was pleased with the county settlement and eager to conclude the proceedings.

"I would gladly have paid $10 million, or whatever it took, if I could get those years of my life back. Unfortunately, that can never happen," Masters said in the statement.

Kelly DiMartino, a spokeswoman for the city, said Fort Collins is presently negotiating with Masters, but she was unable to share details because it involves pending litigation.

Tuesday's settlement -- $3 million of which will be paid by the county's insurer -- closes the case against the county and two of its judges, Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, who were prosecutors in the case that jailed Masters.

A news release said the county had already paid more than $400,000 defending the case and officials believe Gilmore and Blair "handled the Masters prosecution with the utmost professionalism and confidence."

It also said Gilmore, Blair and District Attorney Larry Abrahamson objected to the settlement.

"They would rather have had their day in court," county attorney George Hass said.

The settlement indicates no wrongdoing, explained Hass. Rather, he said, the county was concerned by the prospect of a jury assigning more exorbitant damages. The county decided it would settle for $4.1 million "even though we felt we had a good case to defend," the attorney said.

Hass said he has seen juries dole out damages in excess of $10 million in similar cases, and "that would be a number the county would have to struggle with."

The money should be paid to Masters by February 25, Hass said.

It was 12 years after Hettrick's slaying before prosecutors convicted him and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Police procured no physical evidence in their investigation, and prosecutors relied largely on a collection of knives and gruesome doodles and sketches, as well as the testimony of a forensic psychologist who implicated Masters without ever interviewing him.

He wants to be a normal guy. He wants to get a house, a dog, a car.
--David Wymore, attorney for Tim Masters

Citing DNA evidence that did not implicate Masters, a visiting judge threw out the case in 2008, and Masters walked free.

A year after his release, Masters told CNN he maintained hard feelings for police and prosecutors in the case and said he felt he would have a wife and job if not for the bogus conviction. He was selling items on eBay at the time to earn money.

"They locked me up for a decade for something I didn't do," he told CNN.

Wymore said Tuesday that Masters' eBay income has dried up since he spoke to CNN last year. He is presently living in his aunt's basement and attending school to be recertified as an aircraft mechanic, a job he enjoyed during his eight years in the Navy.

"The settlement allows Tim to re-establish himself as a human being," Wymore said. "He wants to be a normal guy. He wants to get a house, a dog, a car."


Police and prosecutorial misconduct in the investigation and trial? Imagine that.
Post a Comment

<< Home


June 2021   May 2021   April 2021   March 2021   February 2021   January 2021   December 2020   November 2020   October 2020   September 2020   August 2020   July 2020   June 2020   May 2020   April 2020   March 2020   February 2020   January 2020   December 2019   November 2019   October 2019   September 2019   August 2019   July 2019   June 2019   May 2019   April 2019   March 2019   February 2019   January 2019   December 2018   November 2018   October 2018   September 2018   August 2018   July 2018   June 2018   May 2018   April 2018   March 2018   February 2018   January 2018   December 2017   November 2017   October 2017   September 2017   August 2017   July 2017   June 2017   May 2017   April 2017   March 2017   February 2017   January 2017   December 2016   November 2016   October 2016   September 2016   August 2016   July 2016   June 2016   May 2016   April 2016   March 2016   February 2016   January 2016   December 2015   November 2015   October 2015   September 2015   August 2015   July 2015   June 2015   May 2015   April 2015   March 2015   February 2015   January 2015   December 2014   November 2014   October 2014   September 2014   August 2014   July 2014   June 2014   May 2014   April 2014   March 2014   February 2014   January 2014   December 2013   November 2013   October 2013   September 2013   August 2013   July 2013   June 2013   May 2013   April 2013   March 2013   February 2013   January 2013   December 2012   November 2012   October 2012   September 2012   August 2012   July 2012   June 2012   May 2012   April 2012   March 2012   February 2012   January 2012   December 2011   November 2011   October 2011   September 2011   August 2011   July 2011   June 2011   May 2011   April 2011   March 2011   February 2011   January 2011   December 2010   November 2010   October 2010   September 2010   August 2010   July 2010   June 2010   May 2010   April 2010   March 2010   February 2010   January 2010   December 2009   November 2009   October 2009   September 2009   August 2009   July 2009   June 2009   May 2009   April 2009   March 2009   February 2009   January 2009   December 2008  

Powered by Lottery PostSyndicated RSS FeedSubscribe