Denver DA posting called 'Setting the Record Straight' has numerous errors

DENVER - The Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey's office posted an article on its website late Wednesday called "Setting the Record Straight" questioning facts in a CALL7 investigation about the office's prosecution rates. The CALL7 Investigation, aired Tuesday, questioned why Denver prosecutors reject 71 percent of sex assault cases and 36 percent of overall felonies that police bring the office -- a rate of decline much higher than many other prosecutors in Colorado and similar cities around the country.

There are several factual errors in the Denver DA's "Setting the Record Straight" that 7News believes it is important for viewers to know.

The "Setting the Record Straight" posting indicates that Denver's rate of declining cases may be lower than other areas because prosecutors instruct Denver police to bring all cases to prosecutors.

THE DA POSTING SAYS: • In Denver, District Attorney and DPD policy mandate that police detectives present all of their cases for review, this includes cases with no identified suspect, cases with no physical evidence and cases in which the victim does not want to go forward. Unlike other jurisdictions where detectives may screen out unfileable cases without contacting a DA, every victim in Denver has their case reviewed by a prosecutor. This significantly different approach will obviously affect the refusal rate.

CALL7 RESPONSE: CALL7 Investigators took this information into account in the story and asked Denver police if officers bring all cases to prosecutors. On 1/31/13, DPD public information officer Sonny Jackson stated in an email: "Regarding the Sex Assault cases, there are a number of reasons a case would not be presented to the DA for prosecution, including instances where the victim does not cooperate or where there is no sufficient information to identify a suspect." THE EMAIL IS INCLUDED HERE

Most of the districts that we used to compare the Denver DA's prosecution rates also told us they ask police to bring all cases to their prosecutors. 

THE DA POSTING SAYS: • The Denver DA’s Office has a specially selected, trained team of prosecutors who exclusively review and prosecute sexual assault cases. These deputy district attorneys are selected for this assignment because they are passionate about helping victims. Every case that is declined must be independently reviewed by another senior prosecutor to ensure nothing was overlooked.

CALL7 RESPONSE: CALL7 Investigators reported the information in both the online and on-air story.

ONLINE STORY: Morrissey said his office has a process where if a sex assault case is declined, another prosecutor must review the case and sign off on it.

ON-AIR STORY: MORRISSEY SAID IN SEX OFFENSES HE HAS TWO PROSECUTORS REVIEW ANY DECLINED CASES

THE DA POSTING SAYS: • Since 1995, we have been part of the Sexual Assault Interagency Council, a collaborative group of police, prosecutors, hospital staff, therapists, service agencies and others, who hold each other accountable for following a sexual assault protocol. Interestingly, the chairperson of this group was also interviewed for the story in question, but her supportive remarks about how Denver’s process works were not included in what aired.

CALL7 RESPONSE: CALL7 Investigators never interviewed the chairperson of this group and do not know why the Denver DA believes that we did. CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon did exchange emails with the chairwoman on a previous story about rape kits but never talked about DA refusal rates with her.

THE DA POSTING SAYS: • We review every case, individually, on its own merits. We do not measure success by a single statistic; we look to an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate effectiveness (see below for more).

CALL7 RESPONSE: CALL7 Investigators repeatedly reported this in both the online and on-air stories and even posted the whole meeting the District Attorney's office taped -- despite DA Mitch Morrissey stressing he would only meet off-camera. CALL7 Investigators obtained the DA's tape through open records laws.

ONLINE STORY: But Morrissey, who would not discuss specific cases, said he has to have a reasonable likelihood of conviction before filing a case.

"We review the cases with a standard of a reasonable likelihood of conviction," Morrissey said. "There are very senior or chief deputies that do that."

ON-AIR STORY: We don't do it based on statistics ... it's on a case by case analysis

THE DA POSTING SAYS: Inaccurate reporting –

The Denver District Attorney's office declines to prosecute 36 percent of all felonies and 71 percent of all felony sex assaults that Denver police bring to prosecutors, the CALL7 Investigators found.

The only Denver statistics available on sexual assault filings came from grant reports from 2010, 2011 and part of 2012 that involved exclusively the review of stranger and acquaintance assaults. The figure reported does not include “all felony sex assaults.”

CALL7 RESPONSE: Denver DA confirms that it provided felony sex assault filings that cover both stranger and acquaintance cases from January 2010 through October 2012. We mention in the story we use three years of data though Denver DA officials told us the stats have been this way for years.

According to the DA, the stats did not include child sex assaults, cold cases, and some human trafficking cases. These considerations were also taken when gathering data from other jurisdictions to make sure there was a fair comparison.

THE DA POSTING SAYS:  For five months, CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon tried to talk to Morrissey about his refusal rates, but his office said he would not go on camera.

Channel 7 called 5 months ago to ask if the District Attorney would do an interview, and he declined because he had seen Ms. Rabon’s work (and saw first-hand how she manipulated interviews). There was no “trying to talk”. There was a request, Mr. Morrissey declined, and 5 months later Ms. Rabon ambushed him in the lobby of the Webb Building.

CALL7 RESPONSE: Through numerous calls and emails during the last five months, we have sought interviews from the DA. Requests began on January 8, 2013 and continued via phone calls and emails through April 26. We met with DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough and Chief Deputy Lamar Sims in person Jan. 14, 2013, again asking for an interview with DA Morrissey. We were told he would not do an interview. We even asked for DA Morrissey's calendar in February to find a public meeting where we could interview him.

EMAILS REQUESTING INTERVIEW THAT WE STILL RETAIN HERE

We told DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough repeatedly that, while we prefer a sit down interview, we would have to approach DA Morrissey in a public area if he would not agree to sit down for an interview. After our most recent request was denied, we caught up with Morrissey in the Webb Building. He is a public, elected official and we believed he has a responsibility address his rate of declining cases to voters. We continued to request an on-camera interview with Morrissey after meeting him in the Webb Building. He agreed to an off-camera interview to decide whether to go on camera. When we arrived at the off-camera meeting, Morrissey chose to record that meeting, which we then obtained through open records laws and posted for our viewers.

It's impossible for the DA to suggest he has "seen first-hand how Ms. Rabon has manipulated interviews" as Rabon has never interviewed Morrissey prior to this story. DA Morrissey has never sat in on any interviews conducted by Rabon, and he has never witnessed the process of her stories being edited. 

 

DA POSTING SAYS: Michelle said she is upset that her case wasn't pursued. After CALL7 Investigators started asking questions, police reopened the investigation.

The case involving “Michelle” was reopened when the victim provided some additional information. 

CALL7 RESPONSE: Michelle's case was opened in April 2011, and DPD informed her in April 2012 that it had been closed because the DA refused to prosecute.

When CALL7 Investigators requested her case file March 25, 2013, DPD initially responded that they needed a release from the victim's attorney, which he provided. Later, DPD responded that her case had been reopened and refused to provide even a redacted version of the report.

Michelle contends that police were aware of her witness (the additional information) since the initial filing of her report.

Also, CALL7 Investigators make no reference to causality in the above statement (as authorities refused to discuss the case and why it was reopened), but we reported accurately that it was reopened after we started asking questions about the case.