Longform

Angel Eyes

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Anthony Graves, a graduate student at the University of Denver, explained that it had been many months since he'd been in close contact with Justin but that the two had been good friends throughout high school and college. "The Justin McIntosh I grew up with is kind and compassionate," Graves wrote. "I have always regarded him as a sensitive, attentive listener and a loving friend."

And Margritte Lindsey, a woman who taught at a school Justin attended and watched him grow up with one of her sons, described the six-foot-six-inch-tall man as a "gentle giant" who was always the picture of calm. "He was tall, neat and clean, very handsome, a good listener, conservatively dressed, reserved, well spoken, with impeccable manners."

Despite the accolades, the judge set bail at twice the amount that Justin's attorney had requested. The McIntoshes put up the money immediately, and Justin was free to go home and live with his parents. He wasn't allowed to have contact with Caleena or with anyone under the age of eighteen.

Justin's preliminary hearing was scheduled for late last January, but he waived his right, and his attorney instead used the court appearance to ask the judge to lift the restriction banning him from having contact with kids. Justin's family wanted him to bond with his nephew, who had been born less than a month after Jasmine. "I feel very comfortable having my son around Justin and have witnessed very positive interactions between the two of them in the past," his sister Kara Ali wrote to the judge, who denied the request.

At that point, the case was bound over to district court for arraignment. But instead of entering a plea during the February 26 hearing, Justin's attorney requested a continuance, which was granted. At the next court date, May 5, the prosecuting attorneys said they needed additional time to review medical records, so the arraignment was pushed back to June 13. And when June 13 came, it was the defense's turn to ask for another continuance; Justin's attorney argued that extra time was needed for a forensics expert to determine whether Jasmine had had any pre-existing health conditions that may have contributed to her death. Finally, on July 14, Justin entered a plea of not guilty, and a jury trial was set for November 18. However, that date has since been pushed back to the first week of January.

Caleena and her family are frustrated by how long the case has dragged on and feel that the DA's office hasn't shared enough information with them. Until recently, the family had met with Deputy DA Pearson only once. Following some of the hearings, they had tried to squeeze in a few minutes of face time with Pearson, only to hear her say what a class-act attorney the McIntoshes hired. "She said the sky's the limit on what his family will spend to defend him," says Pam Martinez.

The family complained to the DA's office about the lack of involvement, and Pearson has since been more accommodating. But they still don't understand why there was insufficient evidence to charge Justin with first-degree murder -- or why he's been allowed to leave the state three times in recent months to accompany his mother on family-related trips, a fact that no one in the DA's office bothered to share with them.

Having a high-profile attorney certainly doesn't hurt. Justin's lawyer, Forrest Lewis, has represented some of Colorado's most notorious criminals, including Nathan Dunlap, who gunned down five Chuck E. Cheese's employees in 1993; Robert Harlan, who was convicted in 1995 of raping and murdering one woman and shooting a good Samaritan who tried to help; and Danny Martinez, one of the gang members who raped, tortured and murdered fourteen-year-old Brandy DuVall before dumping her body in Clear Creek Canyon. Lewis, who told Westword he can't talk about Justin's case until after the trial, also defended Stephen Martinez, another man charged with shaking a baby to death. Like Justin McIntosh, Stephen Martinez confessed to police, telling them he couldn't get his girlfriend's four-month-old baby to stop crying.

Martinez's case led to a Colorado Supreme Court decision allowing medical experts to explain the severity of injuries associated with Shaken Baby Syndrome. During Martinez's case, an expert compared the baby's injuries to what she would have suffered had she fallen from a tall building or been involved in a high-speed car crash. In December 2001, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the testimony was irrelevant and should have been excluded, overturning Martinez's January 2000 first-degree-murder conviction. But in July 2003, the state's highest court overruled the appellate court decision on testimony and reinstated Martinez's original conviction. The ruling was hailed as a victory by prosecuting attorneys, who had seen an eighteen-month hiatus in shaken-baby filings while the decision was pending.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon