Carol Chambers loses latest round in death-penalty battle

Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers has had her ups and downs in her efforts to obtain the death penalty for two Limon inmates accused of killing a prison snitch.

Almost two years ago, Lincoln County District Judge Stanley Brinkley removed her office from the prosecution of one of the two capital defendants, Alejandro Prerez, citing misconduct by prosecutors, including failures to disclose conflicts of interest and misleading court filings.

Chambers protested that decision, and the Colorado Supreme Court put her back on the case. But now Judge Brinkley has tossed her from the Perez prosecution once more , this time singling out her office's unusual approach to financing its death-penalty efforts.

As first reported here in 2008, Chambers has used an obscure 130-year-old statute that requires the state to reimburse counties for prosecuting crimes committed inside prisons. That's given her a special war chest for the capital cases against Perez and co-defendant David Bueno (who was convicted but spared death and now is appealing, based on evidence that Chambers' office failed to disclose key information to the defense) as well as that of Edward Montour Jr., convicted of killing a guard at Limon.

Brinkley thinks the financing scheme circumvents state law and questions whether Chambers is bent on getting convictions at any cost -- as long as it's somebody else's. Chambers has long complained of being outspent and outgunned by the death-penalty defense bar and has argued that prosecutors should "use the tools we can" to even the playing field and punish prisoners who commit serious crimes while inside the system.

Yet all three of the DA's prison-related death cases are now in a morass of appeals and ethical quandaries, many of them generated by the conduct of the prosecutors involved. Yes, death-penalty cases can be a tremendous drain on public resources. But Chambers' efforts to use all the tools she can seems to just keep driving the cost up.

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