This week's cover story, "Blue in Orange," is about Willie Clark, who was convicted in 2010 of murdering Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams. Clark is now appealing that conviction and is also fighting prison officials in court to get himself out of solitary confinement, where he's been kept for five years.
After our story hit newsstands, we got a call from Clark's mother. She's outraged at how prison officials have treated her son, who she believes is innocent.
"I think they violated him in every way," Yolanda Clark says. "He's passed every program, he's done everything he's required to do, and he's still in the hole." And now, he's in the hole somewhere where she can't easily visit him; in late October, Clark was moved to an undisclosed prison out of state.
His mother suspects it's because her son was convicted of killing a famous football player, a crime she doesn't believe he committed. Like his lawyers, she believes her son was a scapegoat. "I think it was Colorado wanting to have a big conviction," she says.
Yolanda Clark says she attended every day of her son's thirteen-day trial -- and she didn't like what she saw. Many of the people who testified against her son had been arrested in a federal drug trafficking case and then offered deals in exchange for their testimony. For example, Daniel "PT" Harris, considered the prosecution's star witness, was facing a life sentence, but his prison time was reduced to five years thanks to his cooperation. Willie Clark was also arrested in the drug case. But unlike most of the others, he's still in prison.
"The bottom line is, he's in there and all these other people, they're walking," she says.
Yolanda Clark says her son was not a gang member -- and he's definitely not the Tre Tre Crips kingpin that prosecutors and prison officials have made him out to be, she adds. However, when it comes to Willie, his mother says she doesn't "sugarcoat it." She admits that when her son returned to Colorado after spending some time in jail in Texas for a fight (she says the other guy was the aggressor, and a white supremacist), he fell in with the wrong crowd. Willie started hanging out with people he'd known since elementary school, but they were into some rough stuff, she says.
"I used to tell him years back, 'Pick your friends wisely, because they're going to get in some trouble and you're going to be the one that gets it,'" she says.
As far as she knows, Yolanda Clark says her son made his money gambling. "Willie was a gambler," she says. "He'd shoot dice. But I've never seen him selling drugs. I've never seen him with a gun.... He smoked weed a little bit, but he didn't drink at all."
Continue for more of our interview with Yolanda Clark about her son, Willie Clark. Yolanda Clark says she was saving money to buy her son a barbershop, because he had a knack for cutting men's hair. Instead, she gave the money to Willie to hire a lawyer. In the days after Williams was shot, Yolanda Clark says homicide detectives showed up at her relatives' houses, asking for Willie. She says she was afraid they'd find him and that he'd get scared and run -- a scenario she was sure would end with her son getting shot by police. So she suggested he hire a lawyer and turn himself in for questioning.
When the police showed up to arrest her son, Yolanda Clark was at the lawyer's office with him. The charge? A parole violation that she says was for switching from his grandmother's address to her address -- something she says Willie told his parole officer he intended to do.
Since that day in January 2007, Willie Clark has been behind bars. As soon as he finished his time for the parole violation, he was arrested in the drug case. And in October 2008, while he was still being held on the drug charges, he was indicted for Williams's murder. That day, Clark says he was transferred to solitary confinement. And despite completing the required steps to earn his way out, he's still there.
"No one should be treated like that, because they are still human," Yolanda Clark says. "They say (it's because of) the nature of his crime, but he didn't do it.
"Everything that's good on his behalf, they didn't talk about it," she adds of his trial. "There was two weapons used (in the shooting). How was Willie driving and shooting two high-powered guns at the same time? The forensic detective said it was impossible."
Yolanda Clark is pinning her hopes on her son's appeal. His attorney filed the opening brief in February, but the state attorney general's office, which handles all criminal appeals in Colorado, has yet to respond.
"I'm pretty hopeful, because it has to be someone bigger with more power that will see through all the evidence in the whole trial," his mom says. "Even the sheriffs who transported Willie said, 'Don't worry; he won't be convicted. This is a bunch of bullshit.'"
When we spoke last week, Yolanda Clark had just learned that her son had been shipped to another prison out of state, reportedly for his own safety. But she says when she called the Colorado Department of Corrections to ask which state and which prison, the officials she spoke with wouldn't tell her. Instead, they told her to call her son's lawyer.
"I said, 'I know this ain't camp or day care; I'm not looking for any special treatment. Just treat him fairly,'" Yolanda Clark says. "To move him out of state is crazy.
"I need to call this prison and go see my son and make sure he's okay."
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Willie Clark: Read our previous coverage of the Darrent Williams murder case."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.