Should Willie Clark, who was convicted of murdering Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams, be kept in solitary confinement in prison?
That's the question at the heart of this week's cover story, "Blue in Orange," which also details Clark's criminal appeal. Clark says that he's innocent and furthermore, he says that he's been mistreated by prison officials, who have attributed his segregation to the notoriety of his crime. We've been covering that crime for years. Here, a look back at our stories.
Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting in the early hours of New Year's Day 2007 when a spray of bullets shattered the window of the Hummer limo that was chauffeuring him and fifteen others home from the club where they'd celebrated New Year's Eve. One of the bullets struck Williams in the neck, and he died almost instantly.
After a long investigation that saw many of Clark's associates arrested on federal drug charges and then offered deals to testify against him, Clark was charged with Williams's murder in October 2008. Prosecutors' theory was the Clark shot into Williams' limo because he and his friends, who celebrated New Year's Eve at the same club as Williams, felt disrespected by the professional football players and their entourage.
Clark's trial began in February 2010. Westword covered all thirteen days of the trial in detailed blog posts filed from the courthouse. Read them below.
Day One: The attorneys deliver opening statements. Clark's defense attorneys claim he's innocent. Prosecutors begin to present their case by calling two of Williams' friends, Brandon Flowers and John Sheppard, to testify. Both men were in the limo that night and Flowers was shot in the buttocks. They describe confrontations between the Broncos entourage and two men -- one dark-skinned and one light-skinned -- at the club.
Day Two: The jury hears from two women, Tyisha Finch and Raven Dennis, who were at the same club as Williams and Clark on New Year's Eve. The women testify about various altercations they observed and were involved in there.
Day Three: The jury hears from several people who were at the club, including Williams' friend Nicklas Washington and former Bronco Elvis Dumervil. An eyewitness who walked past the limo soon after the shooting occurred and limo driver Ryan Alexander also testify. At the end of the day, Clark's associate Felix Abram takes the stand.
Day Four: Abram continues his testimony, vouching for the prosecution's star witness, Daniel "PT" Harris. Former Bronco Brandon Marshall also takes the stand, admitting that he was at the club that night and may have escalated the altercation between the football players and Clark's group.
Day Five: Ballistics experts tell the jury the evidence suggests that two shooters using two different guns shot into Williams' limo. Star witness Harris takes the stand in the afternoon and tells the jury he saw Clark -- and only Clark -- shoot at the limo.
Day Six: Harris finishes his testimony. He admits to fleeing to Mexico after the shooting but denies telling a woman there that he was the shooter. A woman named Veronica Garcia, who says she'd known Clark for a decade, tells the jury he asked her to provide a false alibi for him and to park the SUV used in the shooting in her garage.
Day Seven: A gang expert testifies about the origins and culture of the Crips, to which prosecutors say Clark belongs. The jury sees photos of Clark's tattoos, which the expert says are gang-related. Jurors also hear from Joshua Grantham, a former cellmate of Clark's who claims that Clark boasted of killing Williams.
Day Eight: Vernone Edwards, who knew Clark and Garcia, tells the jury that Clark confessed to him and told him, "I didn't mean to do it." He also says Clark asked him for another gun. Clark declines to testify in his own defense.
Day Nine: Clark's defense attorneys begin to present their case. Two club security guards testify that they saw the men involved in the altercation with the Broncos players get into a green SUV, not the white one that prosecutors say Clark was driving. Bystander Jason Johnson tells the jury that he saw a green or brown SUV speeding away after he heard the gunshots. In addition, Clark's cousin Jazelle Hudson testifies that she saw Clark arrive at an after-hours club that night in a black SUV, and a woman named Stacey Mora testifies that Clark showed up to a late-night restaurant a while later.
Day Ten: The stepfather of the man who prosecutors say was sitting next to Clark when Clark shot at the limo testifies that his stepson didn't have any marks on his face or problems with his hearing in the days following the shooting. A forensic DNA analyst testifies that cigar tips found in the white SUV have someone else's DNA on them. And Marquise Harris, a former inmate who was housed with Clark, testifies about a confession letter he says Clark wrote. Clark's attorneys point out that the letter doesn't make sense and that it looks as though Harris cut-and-pasted it together.
Day Eleven: The attorneys deliver closing statements. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys show the jury a copy of Clark's mug shot, but they caption the photo differently. Prosecutors use Clark's alleged nickname, "Little Lett Loose." Defense attorneys use the word, "Scapegoat." They point out that many of the prosecutions' witnesses were offered deals in their own cases to testify against Clark.
Day Twelve: The jurors begin deliberating. One of the alternate jurors who was dismissed tells reporters that "there's not enough evidence" to convict Clark.
Day Thirteen: The jury reaches a verdict: guilty. Williams' mother, Rosalind, tells reporters that despite all of the evidence presented during the trial, she may never know what happened to her son that night.
April 30, 2010: Clark is sentenced to life in prison for Williams' murder, plus 1,152 years for the attempted murders of the limo's other occupants. Rosalind Williams addresses the judge: "I know he's still saying he's innocent, but for each and every person who was in the vehicle, you guys are all guilty. Admit that. Show some remorse. Make your mom, make your dad proud. My son certainly made me proud. And I think there's still hope."
After the trial, Westword wrote a cover story about the Williams murder case. The story was in two parts. The first part, "In the hunt for Darrent Williams' killer, the cops went on the offensive early," describes how Denver police and federal investigators used a federal drug investigation to help indict Clark for the crime.
The second part, "The evidence that put Willie Clark away," analyzes the evidence used to convict him -- and why the jury may or may not have believed it.
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Now, an appeals court could be faced with that same evidence.
More from our Follow That Story archives: "Nate Jackson: Ex-Bronco turned author's Denver return draws Jake the Snake and more."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org