El Paso County District Attorney Tries to Block Wrongly Convicted Colorado Springs Man From Receiving Restitution

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August 27, 2015 by socialaction2014

Source:
A Just Cause
August 27, 2015 10:24 ET

El Paso County District Attorney Tries to Block
Wrongly Convicted Colorado Springs Man From Receiving Restitution

Wrongly Convicted Colorado Springs Man and His
Family Disappointed at the Response of the El Paso County DA Dan May
Regarding His Petition to Receive Compensation for a Seven Year Wrongful
Incarceration

DENVER, CO–(Marketwired – August 27, 2015) – June
2013 marked the month and year that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
signed a bill into law which compensates those who have been exonerated
after a wrongful conviction.

The first man to benefit from the
new law was Robert Dewey. Dewey spent 16 years in prison before being
freed in 2012 after new DNA evidence exonerated him of the 1994 murder
and sexual assault of a Palisade woman. The new evidence led to the
arrest of another man with no connection to Dewey. (http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22742847/)
“This
bill recognizes that there are injustices in our justice system and
that your civil rights can be wronged,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver,
bill co-sponsor. This bill, sponsored by Colorado State Senator Lucia
Guzman, D-Denver, creates a program that provides $70,000 for each year
incarcerated, plus an additional $25,000 for each year he or she served
on parole and $50,000 for each year he or she was incarcerated and
awaited execution. It also provides tuition waivers at state colleges if
the person served at least three years in prison (http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22742847/).
The
case of Lamont Banks is another wrongful conviction story in the state
of Colorado for which petition for compensation is sought. Banks was
convicted in 2005 of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position
of trust and sexual exploitation of a child. According to court
documents, on appeal, the court of appeals reversed the conviction on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
The court held that the prosecutor’s improper questioning of Banks
affected his substantial rights and undermined the fundamental fairness
of the trial. The case was remanded for a new trial. According to court
records, the new trial resulted in a conviction of sexual exploitation
of a child (People v Banks, No 07CA0082, Aug. 4, 2011). On appeal of the
follow up trial, the court of appeals Vacated the Conviction and Sentence
(13CA1321 Peo v Banks 05-07-2015, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1321, El
Paso County District Court No. 05CR3016, Honorable David A. Gilbert,
Judge).
In the Banks case, an excerpt from the court of appeals
order reads, “Because there was insufficient evidence on which a jury
could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Banks knowingly possessed or
controlled the video, Banks’ conviction for sexual exploitation of a
child cannot stand.” The Conclusion of the Order reads, “The judgment of
conviction and sentence are vacated,” (13CA1321 Peo v
Banks 05-07-2015, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1321, El Paso County District
Court No. 05CR3016, Honorable David A. Gilbert, Judge).
FindLaw.com
states, “In general, to vacate a conviction means to set aside the
verdict. In other words, it will appear as if the first trial and
conviction never happened,” (http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2013/01/how-do-you-get-a-conviction-vacated.html).
Court
records show that Banks subsequently filed a petition for restitution
in accordance with Colorado statutes 13-65-101 and 13-65-102, which
provides $70,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration. El Paso County
(Colorado) District Attorney Dan May joined in with Colorado Attorney
General Cynthia Hoffman in filing a motion to dismiss Banks’ petition on
the grounds that the conditions of 13-65-101 had not been met (Case No.
15CV031588, District Court, El Paso County, Colorado).
“The
bottom line is that I was the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice,”
exclaims Banks. “I was found ‘Not Guilty’ by a jury of 12 people in my
new trial, where the evidence was so strong I didn’t even have to take
the stand in my own defense,” asserts Banks.
“By
definition,’vacate’, means there is no conviction in the case brought
against me by Donna Billek and the DA’s office. The jury of 12 declared
me ‘Not Guilty’. If that’s not actual innocence, I don’t know what is in
this country,” says Banks. “For all practical purposes, the
Constitution protects me as ‘innocent until proven guilty’. When the
Court of Appeals vacated my conviction and sentence, it placed me in a
category of ‘actual innocence’… as if the conviction never happened,”
declares Banks.
The verbiage in the Appeals Order clearly vacates
the conviction and sentencing of Lamont Banks, the fact that El Paso
County DA Dan May and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Hoffman move to
dismiss his petition for restitution on the Colorado law extended to the
wrongly convicted for the time they have served is unconscionable.
“I
am deeply hurt by the actions of DA Dan May,” explains Rose Banks,
mother of Lamont Banks and Pastor of the Colorado Springs Fellowship
Church. “I have worked with DA May on the ‘Let’s Talk Community Forum’
that we sponsored through our church. The ‘Let’s Talk Community Forum’
was a unique opportunity for our church, which is predominantly African
American, to reach out to the law enforcement officers in our community
amidst the angst that had gripped our nation with police departments and
violent confrontations with African American communities that sparked
protests. Our goal with ‘Let’s Talk’ was to provide a forum of open
dialogue and break down barriers between law enforcement and our
community. In addition, our church sponsored breakfast and lunch for the
officers in the community on at least three occasions to express thanks
and gratitude for the sacrifices they make to keep our community safe,”
adds Pastor Banks. Pastor Banks was personally invited by DA May to
keynote his quarterly meeting, speaking to over 80 attorneys in his
charge.
Ahead of this meeting, Pastor Banks sat down with DA May,
the Colorado Springs Chief of Police and a representative from the El
Paso County Sheriff’s Office in a private meeting to share what her
family had gone through as a result of the justice system. “I have three
children that have been wrongly convicted, whose lives have been
devastated by the system. I wanted to give DA May, the Chief, and the
Sheriff Department representative first-hand knowledge of the wrongful
convictions in advance of our ‘Let’s Talk Community Forums’ and provide
full disclosure to DA May, who had invited me to speak to his
attorneys,” explains Pastor Banks. “I was very candid with DA May, who
had personally invited me to speak, as I was unsure if he would still
want me to speak after knowing the information about my family’s
negative experiences with the legal system,” add Pastor Banks. DA May
assured Pastor Banks that he had no concerns and, in fact, gave her
license to discuss the cases and any other topics of her choosing for
the June 2015 forum with his attorneys.
“DA May seemed open to
his attorneys hearing the different wrongful conviction stories my
family had experienced in the raw and I wanted to be sure I left every
attorney present with a message they would never forget… to make 100%
sure, without a doubt, that the people they lock up are guilty. I also
wanted them to see the pain and aftermath of wrongful convictions, how
the extended families are impacted, how life is just never the same
after this happens,” declares Pastor Banks.

“DA
May knew the facts of my son, Lamont’s, wrongful conviction first hand
and volunteered to look into his case during the private meeting with
the Chief and Sheriff Department representatives. I am greatly
disappointed that he would deny Lamont the restitution owed to him, by
law, in the state of Colorado for the time that was wrongly taken from
him. It is time he will never get back,” Pastor Banks lamented. “In no
way do I expect favors or preferential treatment, but the facts in
Lamont’s case are very clear. DA May knew that one of his deputies
committed misconduct and Lamont was granted a new trial which vacated
his conviction and sentence of eight years to life,” notes Pastor Banks.

This ruling was enough to release Lamont from prison, but the
State of Colorado is arguing baseless technicalities to withhold
restitution. “As a mother, it saddens me to see all that my son has lost
and how the State won’t hold to their own laws to right the wrong
against him. No restitution can repay the time he has lost, the horrible
things he experienced in prison, or the resultant health problems, but
it’s the very least the State can do to help Lamont get back on his
feet,” says Pastor Banks. “DA May’s denial seems so beneath the man I
have come to know and worked with in the community,” concludes Pastor
Banks.
Lamont’s petition was “barred because those convictions
were reversed due to prosecutorial misconduct, which is a legal error
unrelated to Petitioner’s actual innocence” (Case No. 15CV031588,
District Court, El Paso County, Colorado). According to USLegal.com,
“prosecutorial misconduct is conduct which violates court rules or
ethical standards of law practice” (http://definitions.uslegal.com/p/prosecutorial-misconduct).
“This begs the question: Why is the DAs office prosecuting people who
haven’t done anything wrong, but failing to prosecute its own attorneys,
like Donna Billek, who commit prosecutorial misconduct in Lamont’s
case? He was punished for something he did not do, yet Attorney Donna
Billek, in the DA’s office, who wrongly prosecuted him, was never
punished. In fact, she was promoted in the ranks of the DA’s office, in
spite of her misconduct,” exclaims Lynette Campbell, A Just Cause.
“At
the time of questioning, the alleged victim, who is now 19 and has
since recanted her accusations, stated that she felt threatened and
intimidated at the age of 8 with Donna Billek’s words. Attorney Billek
told the girl during questioning that she was not telling her what she
wanted to hear,” says Lamont Banks.
“My heart aches when I see the
injustice and inequities in the justice system. I understand the anger
and outrage across the nation. It’s due to the injustice, which must be
fixed so lives are continually destroyed. How many people is Attorney
Donna Billek going to put away using the same crooked methods? If she
did it to my son without any consequences, she has free reign to inflict
pain in the lives of others. The DA’s office needs to be held
accountable,” says Pastor Banks.

“I
find myself at times crawling on the floor in excruciating pain due to
degenerative disks in my back as a result of prison sleeping conditions
during my wrongful incarceration. Two months after being found not
guilty, I was in the battle of my life in ICU for 6 days, fighting for
my life and not expected to live with a blood glucose level of 1500. I
should have died from a diabetic coma. The horrible diet and non-caring
attitude of the medical people who worked in prison caused me to develop
Type 2 diabetes in addition to my degenerated disks in my back. I am a
casualty of corruption, a wrongful conviction, and prosecutorial
misconduct. It is not only the time I spent in prison, but the effects
of wrongful conviction will haunt me for the rest of my life. I am only
seeking the restitution allowed under the law,” concludes Lamont Banks.
“Do
feel that I should receive restitution for seven years of my life being
taken away? …Absolutely!” exclaims Banks. “I have been fortunate that
I have the support of friends and family, but that still doesn’t
dismiss the obligation of the State of Colorado for the wrong that was
done to me,” Banks adds.
“I
have to agree with what Robert Dewey said during an interview when he
stated, ‘He was not pointing fingers or blaming anyone, he was just
trying to move on with his life. I’m thankful that Dewey will be
compensated. As for me, I will continue to fight for restitution.
Because of what happened to me and the injustice I saw first-hand, I’ll
spend the rest of my life, until my dying breath, fighting for others
who have been done wrong by a crooked justice system,” Banks concluded.

Contact Information

CONTACT INFORMATION
A Just Cause
(855) 529-4252 extension 703
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