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Colorado's ailing, but the good doctor doesn't have a cure.

He isn't talking about the shooting of fifteen-year-old Paul Childs last July, which resulted in the city's making a $1.325 million settlement to the Childs family -- and sparing Denver the high-profile embarrassment of a civil suit led by Johnnie Cochran. Nor is he talking about the death of Ismael Mena.

No, Thompson's talking about Lisl Auman, whom he's been talking about since 2001, when Lisl first wrote him from Cañon City, where she's serving a life sentence -- the only sentence possible for someone convicted of felony murder in Colorado. Lisl met Matthaeus Jaehnig on November 12, 1997. By the end of that day, both he and Denver police officer Bruce VanderJagt were dead -- and Lisl's life was changed forever. In between came a ride up to the mountain lodge where Lisl had been living with her boyfriend, a burglary and a wild high-speed car chase back into Denver -- where Lisl was in police custody when Jaehnig shot VanderJagt in the face, then killed himself.

The Vanity Fair article, a strange amalgam of Hunteresque rant and memoir/ narrative by Mark Seals, takes the Auman case no further than Juliet Wittman did in "Zero to Life," her cover story for the April 15, 1999, issue of Westword, and ends with the suggestion that those interested in the Free Lisl! campaign write the Rocky Mountain News or Denver Post, or call Denver police chief Gerry Whitman (who was not the chief when Lisl was convicted, much less arrested) or Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter. It does not suggest the one thing that could make a difference: Contact Colorado legislators and ask them to change this state's arcane, insane, felony-murder law.

Plenty of people have been following Vanity Fair's advice, although Ritter says he's "gotten far more e-mails from Catholics because I criticized the Colorado Springs bishop." Still, to set the record straighter, on Tuesday the DA's office posted on its website the "Statement of Facts" and a summary of the case that are both part of the appellate brief. The Colorado Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on whether Auman deserves a new trial. If it does, her case could make legal history, defining numerous inconsistencies and gray areas in the felony-murder law --including what, exactly, constitutes a flight. Or this long-running embarrassment could end with Lisl getting a second chance to take the plea she refused seven years ago, a plea that would have removed the felony-murder charge and likely had her out on the streets today.

Once she refused that deal, Lisl was fucked, all right, but she is not "being brutally raped right in front of my eyes," as Thompson writes, and certainly not by "rapists wearing big guns and Denver Police Department badges." If there's one word that shouldn't be misused these days in Colorado -- this state that's taken such a serious beating in the national press, the sexual-assault capital of the world -- it's "rape."

We already have enough to apologize for.

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