More questions raised about Denver's Career Service Board regarding overturned suspensions

Posted at 6:51 PM, Nov 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-14 20:51:10-05

DENVER -- The Denver City Council approved a $4.65 million settlement with the family of inmate Michael Marshall Monday night.

The two deputies and a sheriff's department captain seen in jailhouse video taking down Marshall, ultimately leading to his death, were all disciplined and suspended by the Department of Safety only to have their suspension overturned.

Additionally, Denver7 has uncovered a questionable source at the center of the case.

According to a 10-page decision letter, a hearing officer with Denver's Career Service Board used testimony from a former sheriff's captain the department called "not credible" to overturn Captain James Johnson's 10-day suspension.

Captain Jeffery Wood was under investigation for excessive force, but retired from the department before the investigation was complete.

Wood's conduct reports state he was under investigation for "striking an inmate in the face with a closed fist." Video from inside the jail shows Wood hit the inmate.

Despite these facts, the hearing officer used Captain Wood's testimony to defend Johnson's action, and ultimately reverse his suspension with back pay and benefits. He wrote in a footnote of the report: "The investigation was never completed and no findings entered, making the allegations a nullity."

"When a man died at the hands of Captain Johnson, they bring a witness to defend him. Captain Wood himself left the city and county of Denver under investigation for excessive force," said Darold Killmer, the Marshall family's attorney. "When he testifies that he looked at the video and he saw nothing wrong, well no surprise there. He wouldn't know excessive force if it hit him upside the head."

Killmer said accountability is long overdue within Denver's Career Service Board, which has a long-history of overturning deputy discipline.

"It's a long-standing problem and I don't think it will be solved overnight. But we've had a lot of overnights and it's time for a change," Killmer said.

“This is yet another example of a hearing officer undermining our ability to appropriately address misconduct and hold employees accountable," said Daelene Mix, a Denver Department of Safety Spokesperson. "We remain hopeful that the new rules the Career Service Board recently adopted will eliminate hearing officer’s ability to substitute their opinion for that of employers who are best positioned to administer disciplinary decisions.”

"The people who killed Michael Marshall, the people who killed their brother and their uncle, they get off scot-free and they go back to work to do it again and again," Killmer said.