Innocence Evidence and Prosecutorial Misconduct Found in Tim Masters Case

The case of Tim Masters has long been viewed as one of the most disturbing murder convictions on record: a case where a man seemed convicted without direct evidence of guilt, treated abusively by police and painted as a deviate on the basis of childhood drawings. A special prosecutor has now found not only prosecutorial abuse in the case but DNA evidence that points to another man.

Tim Masters’ case has been a subject of debate in criminal law circles for years after he was convicted for sexually mutilating a woman when he was 15 years old. Peggy Hettrick was killed in 1987 and left in a field. Masters was convicted of the crime 12 years later — though no substantive evidence was found against him.

Adams County District Attorney Don Quick has now found that DNA evidence found on Hettrick’s clothing matched another man.

The case is particularly disturbing because of allegations of police abuse and prosecutorial misconduct. In his interrogation, the 15-year-old was not given an lawyer and grilled for hours by tag-team detectives. They lied to him that he had flunked a lie detecter and told him that they had clear proof of his guilt. Prosecutors later withheld key evidence that would have helped in his defense.

Last night, CNN interviewed one of the detectives who said that she was almost physically ill when Masters was convicted and believes him to be innocent.

The question in the case now goes beyond release and compensation. It goes to the continuing lack of deterrent for prosecutorial and police misconduct in such cases. When such disclosures occur, there is usually little effort to identify or hold those responsible for distorting the legal system. For a prior column on prosecutorial misconduct, click here The Nifong case is unique in that sense. What is remarkable is that there seems little middle ground between prosecutors receiving no punishment (the norm) in such cases and Nifong who recently filed for bankruptcy and now appears totally ruined. For Nifong filing, click here.

The vast majority of prosecutors and police do not cut corners or cheat. They take their role very seriously. However, such abuses still occur regularly with people who believe that the society will always protect them if they are over-zealous in their pursuit of convictions. Notably, the detective in the Masters case said that they never pursued other suspects after they learned Masters had first spotted the body and did not report it (he says that he did not think it was a real body). Now three former Ft. Collins detectives and a former CBI lab director have all come forward to say that they believe that he is innocent..

For the Masters story, click here and here

7 thoughts on “Innocence Evidence and Prosecutorial Misconduct Found in Tim Masters Case”

  1. To whom it may concern 11-18-10
    From buddy lee George 
    12016 gladhill ave
    La mirada ca 90638-1505
    Trial ended 8-15-09 the verdict

    Enclosed in this letter is information
    Regarding a wrongful conviction on
    Case# VA107160
    The trial was held at Norwalk superior
    Court located in Norwalk California 
    The Honorable judge Roger Ito division S
    Listed below is reasons why and enclosed in this writing is evidence Were all the evidence in my case had been destroyed 3 to 5 months before the trial it’s a email from the detective to the district attorney in my case disclosing the date evidence was destroyed 3 to 5  months before the trial
    1.) my due process rights were violated
    2.) I supoened 5 officers only one showed up and that was detective hakala out of Whittier police department he was the lead detective and the expert witness 
    3.)their was bias involved with the processing of evidence because he used his own lab were the evidence had also been destroyed 3 to 5 months before the trial. 
    4.) the detective stated during the trial 
    He removed the drugs before the pre search video because he had a dog their was no dog
    5.) right before the trial there was a conflict of interest with the attorneys that were representing me they violated attorney client privilege by having a meeting with the city of la mirada with out my permission nor knowledge were my case was discussed
    6.) the attorneys name was Henry salcido out of long beach
    7.) Henry salcido had two retired district attorneys working for him that were overfimilararity with detectives involved in my case 
    8.) these attorneys told me they don’t care if I’m innocent or guilty and that I should take a deal under the condition
    I move out of la mirada when I get out
    9.) Henry salcido told me if I gave home 180.000 and sign over the deed to our home he said he is best friends with steve cooley he could also make this case disappear 
    10.) when the trial started the attorney I hired Joanne alberry out of riverside dident have enough time to familiarize her self with the case
    11.) district attorney kang the Los Angeles county district attorney had me charged with prison priors and strikes I dident have and it was not until after the verdict did she admit her mistakes  email below is evidence of 
    Were the evidence was destroyed
    12.) I was charged with possession for sales when no drugs were found in my possession and no money was recovered 
    13.) cruel and unusual punishment
    14.) violation of my due process rights
    15.) negligence 
    16.) malpractice 
    17.) wrongful conviction
    18.) misrepresentation  
    Please consider looking into this thanks
    Respectfully submitted 
    Buddy George 
    19.) the first search warrant was denied whittier narcotics came in any way
    20.) the 2nd search warrant was done with the name of Walter Eugene Farris 
    A guy who has never stepped foot in our home  

    Buddy George – VA107160From: joanne alberry
    View Contact To: LAURIE YTARTE —————–
    — Laurie,here is the email from the Detective 
    telling the court that all the property was
    destroyed. Sorry about all of it. Feel free to mail
    me any payments you can at my office address
    4229 Main St Suite 4 Riverside CA 92501 I will
    let you know when I find an attorney who will
    take on a governemtn entity. good luck to you
    and Buddy,Joanne ———- Forwarded message
    ———-From: Date: Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 7:23
    AMSubject: Fw: Buddy George – VA107160To: Hi Joanne, Per our
    conversation, here is the email from Detective
    Hakala confirming that the evidence was
    destroyed. I will request that our matter be taken
    off calendar today. Thanks. ———————-
    Forwarded by Miriam Kang/DAUsers/NLADA on
    09/25/2009 07:22 AM ————————— To:
    cc: Subject: RE: Buddy George – VA107160 I
    contacted our central property and the items
    seized in the Buddy George case (408-15814-
    0460-184) were dispoed on 05-29-09. Any other
    questions just let me know. Eric ———————
    []Sent: Thu
    9/24/2009 2:49 PMTo: Hakala, Eric J.Subject:
    Buddy George – VA107160 Hi Detective Hakala,
    Just as a reminder, please email me a letter
    confirming that the the property booked into
    evidence for this case has been disposed of and
    the date of disposal. Thanks so much!
    Sincerely,Miriam KangDeputy District
    AttorneyTel: 562-807-7211 

  2. Welcome to Gulag Colorado. I was charged using false evidence, never arraigned, denied trial, coerced and tricked into pleading guilty to uncommitted armed robbery (no weapon involved), a forgery of presentence report used, sold-out and lied to by my public defender, and more … Because I was on medications and had been drinking the night before (I also had a documented history of blackouts) I did not remember going into a restaurant and reaching over to snatch some money out of a cash register drawer. Maybe I should have been charged with misdemeanor theft? After filing for postconviction relief and using hundreds of pages of documents (including court transcripts, police reports and official government documents) the El Paso County Court in Colorado Springs summarily denied without any findings. After five years going through the entire state system, I am now in federal tenth circuit appeals. The judges don’t want to deal with Colorado’s corrupt local district courts or the politically-motivated higher state courts. While in the prison law libraries, I saw many innocent people trying to overturn unlawful convictions. I believe 30-40% of incarcerated prisoners in Colorado are actually innocent. Welcome to Gulag Colorado.

  3. Pat, thanks so much for posting this link. Although it has a HUGE amount of information on the case, it was fascinating, not to mention outrageous and appalling.

    It is a reminder of other gross miscarriages of justice, to use the polite phrase. One example being the “child molestation” witch hunts in Bakersfield CA, and other such cases, where the panic and hysteria about so-called “child molesters” was precisely the same as the Salem MA Witch trials over 300 years ago. Some of those poor folks who were wrongfully convicted of not only crimes they never committed, but as it turned out, over a decade later, NEVER actually happened.

    Another example was the notorious Jeane Nicario case in DuPage County, IL where two or three innocent young men were wrongfully convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl. The original detective on the case was convinced that the men arrested and convicted hadn’t done it, but was removed from the case by the prosecutors because he wouldn’t go along.

    There are so many such cases, it seems, and many of them cannot be released by DNA evidence, because DNA didn’t play a part in those cases. And without decent legal representation because many have no money for good lawyers, their cases may never be heard at all. Again, thanks for posting the Tim Masters link. I certainly hope his long nightmare will be over soon.

    Susan in VA

  4. Now Det. Broderick – who, by the way, in his professional capacity is in charge of Ethics for the other members of the city’s police force – is talking about “mistakes” and how important it is to determine whether there was any actual malice.

    That man devoted his career to single-mindedly, unswervingly pursuing Tim Masters. He is the architect, engineer, and shot-caller of the entire conspiracy to convict Masters, starting the very day of the murder. He’s been a man on a mission – and nobody can sustain such wrong-headedness for so long without a huge motivating force of malice to activate it.

    I recommend this article as a detailed background of the case if you don’t want to go through dozens of news clips.

  5. I completely agree. There should be some kind of criminal penalty against all kinds of official misconduct, be it committed by police, prosecutors and judges. You are correct that most abide by the rules and don’t cut corners to “win” cases. But since there are no laws against misconduct by law enforcement officials, the ones who are DIShonest and UNethical continue to get away with their…well, criminal behavior.

    The laws don’t have to be harsh or unreasonable, but I believe there should be SOME jail time, and it should be a felony offense, so it stays on their record. A low felony, perhaps, with a minimum of three months up to a year maximum. It may sound harsh to some folks, but that’s nothing compared to what prosecutors like Mike Nifong were willing to do to the three Duke lacrosse players, for example. And Bill Peterson in Ada, OK who convicted two innocent men, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz on the flimsiest of “evidence.”

    I don’t believe civil suits are enough, and I think many judges throw those out of court anyway. While I hate suggesting MORE criminal penalties, I don’t think official misconduct by law enforcement representatives can be considered trivial. At this point, I think criminal penalties are the only way to correct this problem. I seriously doubt that police, prosecutors and even judges would be willing to risk committing misconduct if they knew they might end up doing jail or prison time themselves.

    Susan in VA

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