By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
But in February, two days before his scheduled release, Havens learned that his parole had been canceled. Parole officials have since acknowledged that the decision was reversed after strong protests from the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and the Arvada Police Department.
"I received some significant criticism for letting him go early," parole board chairman Dave Michaud told Westword a few weeks ago, shortly before he retired. "Their position is that he tried to kill one of their officers."
It probably didn't help Havens's chances for parole that he's filed a lawsuit against the detective who shot him, claiming violations of his constitutional rights. (Although Havens needs help turning pages of law books, he's acting as his own attorney.) The CIRT investigation cleared all the officers involved, and Jeffco DA Scott Storey concluded that Johnson was justified in using deadly force. But Havens has another version of what happened in that back lot, out of sight of any video cameras. His account has its problems, but it does raise questions about police sting tactics and just what kind of threat an unarmed nineteen-year-old posed that night.
And one question that looms larger than all the rest: In the case of Darrell Havens, fast and furious car thief sentenced to a life of immobility, how much punishment is enough?
Now 22 years old, Darrell Lee Havens steers his way into the visitors' room at the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility at a steady clip of two miles per hour.
He guides the joystick with a left hand balled in a fist that he can't unclench. His right arm, shrunken and atrophied, hangs useless in a brace. His left leg jerks spasmodically for almost two minutes, as if counting time at a dervish hoedown, and then abruptly stops. He still has some sensation in all his limbs, he says; he just can't control them.
The motorized wheelchair came with him to Fort Lyon eighteen months ago. A contoured cushion designed to keep him from flopping over -- he's developed severe spinal curvature since he was shot -- is worn and sagging. The chair's charger shorts out, Havens says. He sometimes arrives too late for meals in the mess hall because the chair moves so slowly when the power is fading.
"It's pretty messed up," he notes. "It hasn't been maintained. There's a bunch of screws and knobs missing. The only thing they've fixed on it is the tilt."
A former veterans' hospital, Fort Lyon is now the state's primary housing for elderly and disabled felons. Havens occupies one of 25 beds in the special medical needs unit, staffed by a team of nurses, nurse practitioners and "offender care aides" -- other inmates who do a lot of the grunt work, such as bathing the bed-bound and emptying bedpans. A doctor visits every few weeks. Among prisoners, the unit is known as "the graveyard."
According to acting warden Kellie Wasko, there's rarely a spare bed in the unit. Far more prisoners need round-the-clock care than the system can accommodate. Among the current residents, Havens is considered one of the most seriously disabled. "He gets quite significant assistance," Wasko says. "But we did purchase adaptive equipment for him because he wants to feed himself."
Fort Lyon has no on-grounds physical therapy available to the disabled; it does have a "therapy room" where staff assist with repetitious range-of-motion exercises that are supposed to keep a mobility impairment from getting worse. Havens no longer goes there, though, after clashes with staff. "They've told me that I'm too much work," he says. "Some people get a kick out of seeing inmates suffer."
Havens has a stubborn independent streak that poses particular challenges to his keepers. He hasn't been written up for any bad behavior since his arrival, but he hasn't resigned himself to his cage within a cage, either. He's used to fending for himself. He's done so since an early age, when his family fell apart and he had to start making his own decisions -- not many of them good ones.
He was born in Canon City, the youngest of four, but never stayed in one place for long. When he was six, his father, Gerald, went to prison on drug charges. Darrell's mom moved the family to Colorado Springs. A year later, the kids were taken away from her because of her own pending methamphetamine case.
Darrell and his siblings were passed from one foster home to another. His brother Gerry went to a group home; his sister Chrystal ran away. Darrell was grounded frequently, until he, too, ran away. At fourteen he was put on a Greyhound to Denver; nobody would tell him where he was headed. He ended up at his mom's house, reunited with his brother and sisters.
His mother no longer used drugs, but she worked long hours as a waitress and could provide little supervision. To the extent that he had anyone who tried to look out for him, it was Chrystal, five years his senior.
"Since day one, I've pretty much been his mom," she says now. "I am the one that potty-trained him. I was the one who disciplined him. When he was wrong, I made sure he knew he was wrong. But at one point he stopped coming to me. We all did our little thing. I had a boyfriend and got pregnant. Darrell got addicted to crack cocaine when he was fourteen."