Emily Tofte Nestaval
Phone: 303-295-2001 x 105
PATTERN OF CRIME VICTIM RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY 12TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
Community advocates call for investigation into District Attorney's ongoing and repeated mistreating of crime victims
Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center has submitted a complaint to Attorney General Phil Weiser requesting a formal investigation into the deliberate indifference and pattern of repeated violations of crime victims’ rights in the 12th Judicial District by the elected District Attorney, Alonzo Payne, and his office. The current reality in the 12th Judicial District is that Mr. Payne and his office stand as another opponent of victims in their fight for justice, instead of upholding, honoring, and zealously enforcing their rights.
After working with several victim of crime in the 12th Judicial District, RMvlc has discovered multiple violations of the Victims' Rights Act which has been ignored and created increasingly unsafe situations in the jurisdiction. Victims of violent crimes in Colorado have Constitutional and statutory rights enumerated under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (VRA). The intent and purpose of the VRA is that crime victims are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect through the criminal legal process, are told how their case is proceeding, and that they have the right to be heard as a case progresses. These rights are more than a courtesy; often, upholding victims’ rights ensures crime victims are able to seek safety in the aftermath of victimization.
In Colorado, it is unlawful for any governmental authority to deny individuals their rights (C.R.S. 24-31-113). Colorado entrusts its district attorneys with the protection and enforcement of victims’ rights. Alarmingly, this has not been the situation in the 12th Judicial District with elected District Attorney Alonzo Payne at the helm. Mr. Payne and his office have engaged in a consistent and repeated practice of denying crime victims their constitutional and statutory rights. This office has repeatedly not provided required information and notifications to victims, has not responded to victims’ requests for information, has provided misleading information about case progress, and has not conferred with victims about plea offerings nor considered their objections or concerns. Mr. Payne has also repeatedly extended offers to defendants that ignore the severity of the crimes committed, and do not show care for appropriate punishment in the best interest of the victims of the crime, nor the community – a risk to both victims and public safety alike.
While the Colorado Crime Victim Advisory Board voted, for the first time in the more than 30-year history, to refer several Victims' Rights Act violation complaints to the governor's office last week, it is of the utmost importance that the Attorney General investigate the egregious pattern and practice of disregarding victims’ rights. District Attorney Alonzo Payne has tried to explain away the office's disregard for victims' rights citing staffing changes; however, crime victims and RMvlc have been voicing concerns and advocating for deeper and more meaningful changes. The problem runs much deeper than the staff turnover and starts with the lack of leadership and commitment to community safety by its elected official. It is time for Attorney General Weiser to step in to ensure crime victims and their rights are adequately enforced and protected in the 12th Judicial District.
About Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center
Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center exists to elevate victims’ voices, champion victims’ rights, and transform the systems impacting them. RMvlc is a Colorado nonprofit law firm providing free legal services to victims of crime throughout Colorado.