"Arapahoe County DA Charges Death-Penalty Fees to State," a February 2008 feature by Alan Prendergast, spotlighted the prosecution of David Bueno, one of two cons charged with killing a fellow prisoner in 2004. District Attorney Carol Chambers sought the death penalty against Bueno, which puzzled attorney David Lane at the time. Now, Bueno's murder conviction has been vacated for reasons Lane pins on Chambers.
In Prendergast's article, Lane said Chambers's decision to seek the ultimate punishment against Bueno and fellow suspect Alejandro Perez "has been a head-scratcher from day one... In the history of the state, Colorado has never sought the death penalty for a prisoner killing another prisoner."
Bueno was ultimately convicted of slaying the prisoner in question, Jeffrey Heird -- but as the Denver Post's Susan Greene reported in January, District Judge Stanley Brinkley kicked Chambers and her staff off the Perez case for "illegally funding her prosecution." The Chambers team had been booted out earlier "after the revelation that her special deputy district attorney had represented Perez... in a prior job as a defense lawyer," Greene wrote. On that occasion, the Supreme Court reinstated Chambers and company -- but due to the January ruling, Greene noted that Bueno's attorneys were lobbying for a new trial on the grounds that the DA's office allegedly "hid key evidence in the killing."
The latest David Bueno court order, dated October 8, backs up this assertion. Here's an excerpt from the decision from District Judge Douglas Tallman:
Apparently, someone from the District Attorney's office made the conscious decision this information was not to be included in discovery because it was not relevant... The Trial Court cannot say with certainty the District Attorney acted in bad faith by withholding relevant and possibly exculpatory evidence... [But] it is apparent to the Trial Court that a conscious decision was made at some point early in this case to keep the information from the Defendant by separating these documents from the balance of Watson's working file.
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For the foregoing reasons, the Trial Court finds the Defendant's right to present a full, fair, and complete defense to the charges, his right to due process under the State and Federal constitutions, and his right to be provided all relevant and possible exculpatory evidence that might negate his guilt have been violated. Thus, the Court does GRANT Defendant's motion for new trial.
In an e-mail, Lane slams Chambers's office with relish, writing, "In an absolutely shocking order, the trial judge in People of the State of Colorado v. David Bueno, vacated the First Degree Murder conviction of habitual criminal David Bueno because Carol Chambers's office, the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office, hid exculpatory evidence from the public defenders who fought the case. Carol Chambers sought the death penalty against Bueno for a prison murder of another inmate, which resulted in many news articles outlining the fact that her office was improperly making money on the death penalty.
"It is not only truly stunning that the prosecutors in this case hid evidence that was so favorable to the defense that the trial judge has granted a new trial because he had doubts about Bueno's guilt, but it is particularly shocking in light of the fact that this was a death penalty case and the prosecutors were caught red-handed cheating in a case where they were trying their best to kill Mr. Bueno. It is truly an outrage which should result in severe discipline, up to and including prosecution, being imposed upon the prosecutors who hid this evidence."