Prison sentence overturned by Colorado court of appeals

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The conviction of a former Parachute man who was sentenced to prison for 12 years in 2007 has been overturned by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The announcement came Thursday that State Appeals Judge Sean Connelly had reversed the judgment and remanded the case of Michael Keith Lacefield for a new trial because he had not received a “fair” trial in 2007. State Court of Appeals Judges Jerry Jones and Robert Russel supported Connelly’s decision.

Lacefield, 41 at the time of the conviction in September 2007, was found guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter when she was about 4-years-old. He was convicted on three counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, and one count of sexual assault on a child as part of a pattern of abuse.

Lacefield first was suspected of the alleged offenses six years after the assaults, based on comments the then 10-year-old victim made to her grandmother.

The case was tried by 9th Judicial District Court Judge Denise Lynch. The trial lasted four days and was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney. Glenwood attorney Lawson Wills represented Lacefield in the case.

The report of the decision stated, “We do not reverse these convictions lightly and pass no judgment on the credibility of a child who testified to horrific acts. But while (the) defendant was not entitled to ‘a perfect trial’ he was entitled to ‘a fair trial.”

“Plainly, the trial he received was not a fair one,” the report continued.

However, 9th Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson did not agree with the decision calling it a “tragedy”.

“Judges and attorney’s see things a lot differently,” Beeson said. “I don’t necessarily agree with the opinion. I think it was tried well by both attorney’s and the judge.”

Wills wasn’t surprised that the case was overturned.

“I’m not surprised,” Wills said. “I’m pleased to see the court of appeals recognized the multiple errors in this case, and I’m happy for Lacefield. But I am certainly not pleased that he spent a year-and-a-half in prison over this.”

The report stated that the trial was “riddled with error,” and stated that both Judge Lynch made errors in overseeing the case and that Cheney made errors in prosecuting the case. The report cited four specific areas of error: a lack of “modified unanimity instruction,” a lack of any identification of charged offenses, a lack of any screening of child hearsay, and bolstering a child witness, as reasons for the reversal in the case.

According to Wills, the decision basically argues that the court did not specify which allegations coincided with which charges.

“What (Judge Connelly) is saying is that they need to be certain about which (sexual) acts support which charge,” Wills said. “And they weren’t in this case.”

The report also stated, however, that defense council (Wills) failed to raise timely objections in the case.

Beeson said that the DA’s office will take a look at the case and figure out the best way to approach it again. However, he said cases of this nature are very complicated making them difficult to prosecute.

“The bottom line, I think it’s a shame and another victimization of the little girl in the case,” Beeson said. “And to put her through this again is just tragic.”

Wills said that the next step in the case would be for the Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to decide where the case goes from here. Wills said that depending on Suther’s decision, the case could go before the Colorado Supreme Court, or could be sent back to the 9th Judicial District for retrial.

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