Tag Archives: Denver

Denver Mayor’s Office Releases Video of Mentally Ill Inmate’s Restraint Death

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office released three videos last Thursday showing two different camera angles of a November incident that led to the in-custody death of 50-year-old homeless paranoid schizophrenic man Michael Lee Marshall.

According to KDRV-TV, Marshall had been arrested on trespassing charges and was being held on $100 bond at Can Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver when the incident took place.

After Marshall lost consciousness while being restrained by deputies, he was admitted to Denver Health Medical Center in a brain-dead state. His family opted to take him off of life support 9 days later on Nov. 30.

The Associated Press notes that the medical examiner ruled Marshall’s death a homicide by “cardiorespiratory arrest” and “complications of positional asphyxia” related to the manner in which he was restrained.

[RELATED: Chicago Police Union Stands By Officer Charged with First Degree Murder]

Describing the controversy about the footage, The Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene wrote, “The second camera shows that deputies spent about three minutes strapping Marshall’s seemingly limp shoulders and arms into the chair while as many as ten uniformed officers surrounded him. Marshall sat lifeless in the chair for about five minutes while the deputies, for the most part, stood around and watched.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office announced on Thursday that the deputies who restrained Marshall will not face charges.

Explaining his rationale for not pressing charges in a statement cited by The Colorado Independent, Morrisey wrote, “Based on the evidence in this investigation, I conclude that the physical force exerted against Mr. Marshall by the deputy sheriffs was for the lawful purpose of maintaining order in the jail as allowed by Colorado’s statute, and was applied by the deputies as part of their responsibility to provide safety and security. There is no evidence suggesting any force was used for the purpose of harming Mr. Marshall. It should be remembered that this incident began as an attempt to get help for Mr. Marshall who was behaving erratically and inappropriately. The event that required the deputies to physically control him was not of their choosing and their actions were in response to Mr. Marshall’s behavior. Indeed, their efforts to help him continued through the remarkable twenty minutes of CPR.

[RELATED: Report: San Diego Police Department “Weaknesses” Led To Rampant Misconduct]

Mayor Michael Hancock wrote in a statement, “Denver today fulfilled its commitment to the Marshall family to view the video. This family deserves to know what occurred during this tragic event. I am confident this is the right thing to do, but I also know it makes this incident no less difficult for the family, the sheriff deputies and the community.

The release of the videos comes on the heels of a hunger strike by Marshall’s family members and a lawsuit by The Colorado Independent, both of which having demanded that the videos be released.

Natalia Marshall, Michael Lee Marshall’s neice, said, “He didn’t try to hurt anyone. He wasn’t threatening. And for them to forcefully restrain him the way they did and brutally murder him just because of the fact that he was trespassing? Is beyond my thoughts.

Marshall’s family is reportedly considering a lawsuit against the City of Denver and has retained attorneys from the firm Killmer, Lane and Newman, who previously represented the family of Marvin Booker, another man who died while restrained in a Denver jail in 2010. In that case, the firm obtained a $6 million award for Booker’s family.

A 1995 Department of Justice bulletin warned law enforcement agencies of the dangers of positional asphyxia as it pertains to the restraint of individuals in police custody.

One of the videos of the incident can be seen in the above-embedded player, and the other two can be seen below.

Judge Drops Jury Tampering Charges Against Denver Jury Nullification Activists

District Court Judge Kenneth Plotz dismissed all charges on Wednesday against jury nullification activists Eric Brandt and Mark Iannicelli, who had been charged in July with seven felony counts of jury tampering while handing out Fully Informed Jury Association flyers with general information about jury nullification outside of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver.

Jury nullification is a term that describes scenarios in which a jury refuses to convict a guilty defendant under the rationale that the law itself is unjust or inappropriately applied. While jurors do have the power to nullify convictions, defense attorneys in most U.S. states are not allowed to explain that fact.

[RELATED: Activist Charged with Jury Tampering for Promoting Jury Nullification Outside Courthouse]

When Brandt and Iannicelli distributed their flyers from a booth outside of the courthouse, officials accused them of handing the flyers out to “actual and potential jury pool members” and noted that a death penalty case was underway.

Lynn Kimbrough, a spokesperson for District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office, told The Denver Post, “The District Attorney strongly supports the First Amendment and the right to free speech. He is also obligated to uphold the laws of Colorado, which prohibit a person from communicating with a juror with the intent to influence a juror’s vote. The charges that he filed in these two cases alleged that specific conduct.

However, the two activists were handing the flyers out indiscriminately to everyone in an effort to raise general awareness of the concept of jury nullification, not to specific known jurors of a particular case in an attempt to sway them against a conviction.

In dismissing the charges, [Judge Plotz] noted that such charges for handing out FIJA brochures amounted to an unconstitutional application of the jury tampering law and swept in speech that is protected under the First Amendment,” wrote Fully Informed Jury Association executive director Kirsten Tynan. FIJA is an activist group that educates the public about jury nullification.

She added, “Earlier this year, a federal court judge granted an injunction sought by attorney David Lane on behalf of the Fully Informed Jury Association and co-plaintiffs Eric Verlo and Janet Matzen to prevent any further such unconstitutional arrests. The court made clear at that time that such activity is protected under the First Amendment. Nonetheless, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey chose to continue his vendetta, wasting even more taxpayer dollars and harassing harmless Colorado residents, as he refused to drop the charges against Iannicelli and Brandt.

[RELATED: Judge Jails Former Pastor For Jury Nullification Education]

Attorney David Lane, who represented Iannicelli and Brandt, said that District Attorney Morrissey abused his power in bringing the charges against his clients. “[Morrissey’s charges] would be perceived as a losing battle for a first-year law student,” he added. Lane is weighing a federal lawsuit against Morrissey for charging his clients with felonies for exercising their First Amendment rights.

We look forward to adding yet another such victory in the case of Keith Wood, a juror rights educator also abusively mischarged in recent weeks by disgruntled courthouse officials in Mecosta County, Michigan,” said FIJA executive director Tynan, who also claimed that the media coverage surrounding Brandt and Iannicelli’s arrests brought an unexpected and unprecedented level of attention to the concept of jury nullification.

After the charges were dropped, Eric Brandt reportedly paraphrased the Edmund Burke attributed quotation, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” and added triumphantly, “I chose not to stand by [and do nothing]. The world is run by those who show up. I elected to show up.

Activist Charged with Jury Tampering for Promoting Jury Nullification Outside Courthouse

Occupy Denver affiliated jury rights activist Mark Iannicelli was arrested last Monday on seven felony counts of jury tampering after he allegedly distributed educational flyers promoting the concept of jury nullification outside of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. Iannicelli reportedly issued the flyers from a booth with a sign reading “Juror Info.

An arrest affidavit cited by FOX 31 Denver alleged that Iannicelli issued the flyers to “actual and potential jury pool members” and that a death penalty case was underway in the adjacent building.

Authorities released Iannicelli on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. His next court appearance is set to take place on August 11 at 1:30 p.m.

Jury nullification refers to a discretionary act by a jury in which jurors refuse to hand down a conviction against a guilty defendant under the belief that the conviction or the law itself is fundamentally unjust. However, in most jurisdictions, defense attorneys are prohibited from informing jurors about jury nullification.

[RELATED: Ron Paul Calls for Jury to Nullify Cannabis Oil Mom Shona Banda’s Criminal Charges]

In light of this, jury rights advocacy groups like the Fully Informed Jury Association have been working to promote jury nullification to a nationwide audience. Doing so near courthouses can be legally risky, though. In 2010, jury rights activist Julian P. Heicklen was charged with jury tampering for distributing jury nullification flyers from a booth that he had installed outside of a New York City federal court. However, according to The New York Times, Federal District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood threw out the charges against Heicklen, citing the fact that Heicklen’s flyers did not contain any particular information “in relation to a specific case pending before” the juror that read it.

In response to Iannicelli’s arrest, Fully Informed Jury Association’s Kirsten Tynan wrote, “It does not sound likely that the accused’s activity even met the definition of jury tampering. FIJA encourages everyone who is doing general educational outreach at courthouses to be clear that they are not advocating for or against any case in progress, but rather are sharing this information for educational purposes only. What jurors choose to do with that information is up to them. My impression from what I have heard and read so far is that those at this courthouse were aware of this distinction.

Tynan added, “Nonetheless, it sometimes happens that courthouse officials or law enforcement either are ignorant of the difference between general educational outreach and jury tampering or that they choose to ignore it for the sake of making a nuisance arrest that will interfere with free speech activity they find inconvenient or disagree with. It’s possible that one or the other of these is the case in Denver this week.

Iannicelli’s arrest reportedly took place on day two of a three-day drive to educate the public about jury nullification, with a previous outreach effort at another Colorado court having occurred without incident.

“Mysterious” Post Office Spy Camera Vanished One Hour After FOX31 Reporter Asked About It

After a US Postal Service customer alerted FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Chris Halsne of the fact that a hidden surveillance camera appeared to be monitoring and capturing images of customer’s faces and license plates after they dropped off mail at a Golden, CO post office branch, he launched an investigation. However, as he began asking authorities questions as to why the camera had been placed there, it mysteriously vanished. Said Chris Halsne in the above-embedded video footage, “Within an hour of FOX31 Denver asking the law enforcement branch of the US Postal Service why the camera was snapping away month after month, the surveillance device was ripped from the ground and disappeared.”

Witnesses claim that the camera had been in place as early as Thanksgiving of 2014. When officials with the US Postal Service indicated that they were unaware of the camera and that it had not been placed as a part of the facility’s security program, Halsne contacted the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Postal Service’s law enforcement division. US Postal Inspection Service officials declined to meet Halsne for an on-air interview, but admitted that the agency does use surveillance cameras. Postal Inspector Pamela Durkee responded to Halsne’s inquiry by sending an email, which said, “[We] do not engage in routine or random surveillance. Cameras are deployed for law enforcement or security purposes, which may include the security of our facilities, the safety of our customers and employees, or for criminal investigations. Employees of the Postal Inspection Service are sworn to uphold the United States Constitution, including protecting the privacy of the American public.”

However, Halsne noted that the camera was not positioned such that it could monitor the doors to the facility or areas in which postal workers might be victimized by a security threat. Instead, the camera was positioned such that it could only monitor customers’ license plates and faces as they left the facility. Halsne also followed up on the theory that the camera was there to assist with a criminal investigation, but could not find any city, county, or federal criminal search warrants on file that would justify such a camera placement.

BenSwann.com previously reported on the US Postal Service’s “mail covers” program, a separate surveillance initiative in which it photographs the covers of parcels and stores the images in a database. An audit conducted last year noted that the program lacked controls to prevent law enforcement agencies from obtaining the data for unjustified reasons.

FOX31‘s Chris Halsne also filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the US Postal Service, the Office of the Inspector General, and the US Postal Inspection Service in an effort to ascertain some specifics on this newly-identified surveillance program’s costs, contractors, and what happens with the data captured by the Golden Post Office’s mysterious camera. However, none of the aforementioned agencies provided him with a policy on data retention, a list of contractors, or an explanation as to when federal authorities are allowed to use the photographs. He also attempted to contact Hop-On Incorporated, a surveillance camera manufacturer who claims to sell spy cameras to the US Postal Service, but did not receive a reply.

Courts rule in favor of same-sex marriage

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in a 2-1 decision earlier today that the Constitution protects same-sex marriage and states must recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The ruling comes after a lower court in Utah struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage, but the Utah attorney general’s office said in a statement according to the AP, they would be filing a petition to the Supreme Court for the review of this decision.

“We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry,” reads the court’s decision.  “A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”

The decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, will not go into effect immediately though.  As soon as the court ruled, the ruling was put on hold pending an appeal.

A similar decision was made in the state of Indiana today, where a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

District Judge Richard Young made the ruling, stating the ban was unconstitutional, but the Indiana Attorney General’s office said they had plans to appeal the ruling.  No action has yet been taken though.

This decision, unlike that of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, will go into effect immediately, allowing same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses today.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council Perkins and opponent to same-sex marriage, said in a statement after the decisions, “While judges can, by judicial fiat, declare same-sex ‘marriage’ legal, they will never be able to make it right.”

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states including the District of Columbia with recent polls showing a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

Feds Raid Colorado Pot Industry After Promising Not To Intervene

Denver, Colorado (Photo by: (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)
Denver, Colorado (Photo by: Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Months ago I wrote about the Obama administration’s seeming change of heart when it came to the federal ban on marijuana. According to the Justice Department as long as the drug was kept away from children, the black market and federal property then all was fine. Echos of applause were heard for this seemingly historical moment. However, the feds seem to be contradicting themselves leaving many confused.

In Denver, recreational shops were scheduled to open in only a few short weeks. However, according to The Denver Post, federal agents raided the homes of two individuals and more than a dozen facilities selling the drug.

All parties involved claim they were properly licensed, followed all state regulations and were not doing anything which would have prompted the feds to step in.

Although the feds did lift restrictions, they still said they will aggressively enforce the law in the following situations:

  • Preventing distribution to minors;
  • Preventing revenue from marijuana sales from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels;
  •  Preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states;
  •  Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • Preventing marijuana possession on federal property.

According to The Denver Post, federal officials would not reveal which of the above exceptions those involved violated.

One individual’s lawyer told The Denver Post, “They took $1 million worth of plants from his facility,” said Wollrab, who represents Laszlo Bagi, owner of Swiss Medical in Boulder. “They didn’t leave any instructions, saying don’t replant. There was no court order of cease and desist. No explanation.”

According to a Justice Department representative in Denver, no arrests were actually made in the raids. The raids were conducted by, the Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations unit, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement.

Perhaps the most interesting element of this event is that the local police were involved. State law allows citizens to grow, smoke and medicate with marijuana.

-Follow Michael Lotfi On Twitter: @MichaelLotfi & On Facebook