By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Was it rock-solid proof that Nicholas had done the deed? Not necessarily. But considering that there were no other witnesses to the crime, that detectives hadn't tested for gunshot residue on either of the boys' clothes and that investigators had already blundered at the crime scene by missing the twenty-dollar bill, the DA's original case against Alan was looking shaky. And all of this information could easily have been obtained by Alan's lawyers before they suggested he plead guilty and take seventy years in prison.
But if the evidence had pointed toward Nicholas, why would prosecutors have focused on Alan and given him the much tougher deal? Ruttenberg couldn't figure that out. Maybe in the uproar over the killing, they'd made an assumption about the murderer based on preliminary information — where Alan had been sitting in the cab, for example, or that he'd refused to talk. Then, as the public clamored for justice, they could have stuck with their original conclusion, trying their best to jam their square peg into a round hole. It probably didn't hurt that Nicholas had been represented by Craig Truman, one of the most recognized defense attorneys around, while Alan had been assigned a couple of overworked public defenders.
Yes, Alan had hidden the gun. But that made him guilty of accessory to murder, not necessarily of committing the crime itself.
To find out who had really murdered Myers, Ruttenberg had to hear exactly what had happened that night after Alan and Nicholas got out of the cab. And since Alan wouldn't tell her, that left only one person who could.
Alan Sudduth couldn't believe it when Nicholas Reed walked into the courtroom.
While the two had been incarcerated in the same Arapahoe County jail after they were arrested, they hadn't seen each other since Reed had taken his plea deal and been sent to prison in Sterling. Thirteen years later, here he was, shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, being called to the stand as part of Judge Levi's November 2008 hearing to determine if Sudduth should be granted a new trial.
Ruttenberg had neglected — on purpose — to tell her client that she'd be calling Reed to testify. She'd also made sure the two had been kept apart the night before, when both were brought to the local jail in advance of the hearing. She didn't want anyone to accuse the two inmates of getting together and planning whatever it was that Reed was going to say.
And Reed was ready to talk. After he'd been sworn in, before Ruttenberg could ask him who'd killed Finley Myers, the answer blurted out of him: "I'm the one who did it. Alan didn't do it."
That admission shocked the members of Alan's family who were sitting in the courtroom. His younger brother, the uncle who'd taken him to church, the grandmother he'd lived with a child — they'd always assumed Alan had committed the murder, and he'd never told them otherwise. Now, even as they struggled to understand why Alan had never once said he was innocent, they started to hope he'd get a second chance.
Ruttenberg wasn't surprised, though. Three weeks earlier, Maxwell had gone to Sterling to meet with Reed, still serving out his 48-year sentence in that prison. At first he'd been combative, wanting to know who she was. Turned out that no one had visited him in prison since he'd been incarcerated — not his parents, not his brothers and sisters, not his lawyer. And soon he was hunched over the table in the visiting room, face in his hands, saying he'd killed Myers.
He'd told Maxwell that everyone had wanted him to point the finger at Alan — his family, his lawyer, even the cops. "You know, it's a hard thing when you got police in your ear saying, 'We know you didn't do it, just tell us what happened and maybe you can go home,'" he told her. But no matter what additional charges might come his way, he promised that he'd tell the whole story at Sudduth's hearing — adding with a grin, "I'll be there with polka dots on."
And now he was on the stand, minus the polka dots but explaining in detail how, when they'd gotten into an argument over the fare, he'd walked around the cab, taken the gun from Alan and shot Myers.
That put McHugh in an awkward position when he got up to cross-examine the witness. "Okay, so I'm clear: You're now confessing to first-degree murder?" he asked Reed.
"Whatever that entails," Reed replied coldly, the snake-like tattoo around his neck seeming to writhe as he shifted his head. In 1995, McHugh had been the prosecutor on his case, too — and Reed hadn't forgotten.
Still, the prosecutor pressed on: "Well, did you pull the trigger, fire a bullet into Finley Myers's brain?"
Nicholas didn't flinch. "Yes, I did."
When McHugh finished, Reed looked at Sudduth, who was staring at the floor. Ruttenberg had told him not to make eye contact with his old friend, so prosecutors couldn't suggest he was silently prompting him. But that didn't stop Reed from speaking his mind.