DA drops charges against James Broderick, investigator in wrongful murder conviction of Tim Masters

DA: Case couldn't be proved against Broderick

GREELEY, Colo. - Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck filed a motion Friday to dismiss all pending criminal charges against Fort Collins Police Lt. James Broderick, who was accused of lying in the Tim Masters case.

Masters was wrongly convicted for the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick, and Broderick was the lead investigator in that case.

“It’s a sad day for justice in Colorado,” Buck said. “A man was wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully served 10 years. And the people that did that to him were more than just incompetent.”

Buck said two of the people responsible for Masters’ wrongful conviction lost their jobs.

He said he’s sad for Tim Masters that the officer responsible for the wrongful conviction won’t get his day in court.

“But I can only bring cases where we have a reasonable probability of conviction and we don’t have that in this case,” Buck said.

Buck told 7NEWS that he made the decision to drop the remaining charges after the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to restore two additional counts of perjury previously dismissed by the trial court.

“The two counts that were dismissed were critical to this case,” he said.

One count involved an allegation that Broderick lied when he testified there was only one shoe print at the murder scene made by a Thom McAn shoe.  Buck said Masters didn’t have Tom McCann shoes.

“That testimony was probably the most misleading part of the trial,” Buck said. “It was something we considered perjury, and something the judge didn’t. And the Supreme Court decided not to take the issue on.”

The second count involved an allegation that Broderick lied about the color of spray paint on a bridge near the murder scene.

Masters was arrested in 1998 in California. A year later, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison. Yet, DNA evidence from Hettrick's clothing and personal effects was re-examined in 2008 and did not match Masters' DNA, according to attorneys who filed Masters' appeal of his conviction.

“Let me tell you something unequivocally,” Buck said. “Tim Masters did not commit this crime.”

Masters did not return a phone call seeking comment, but Buck said he talked to him about the decision to drop the case against Broderick.

“He told me he was saddened by the news,” Buck said. “I have to tell you I think Tim Masters has conducted himself with great dignity through this ordeal.”

Broderick’s attorney, Patrick Tooley, was elated by Buck’s decision.

“We said the charges should not have been filed,” Tooley said. “We appreciate the prosecutor focusing on his job… Lt. Broderick is a long-time dedicated law enforcement officer.  He is relieved that this matter is behind him.”

Master’s aunt, Colleen Masters, was not happy to hear that the case against the police officer was being dropped.

“I knew he wouldn’t get any time,” Colleen said. “I think he’s just a bum.  He put Tim through hell.”

After spending ten years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Masters sued the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County for wrongful imprisonment.  He won a combined $10 million judgement.

The Weld County District Attorney's Office was named special prosecutor for the 8th Judicial District in January 2008, because Broderick is employed by the Fort Collins Police Department in Larimer County.