DENVER (AP) _ State regulators are investigating whether two former prosecutors who later became state judges acted improperly when they won a now-discredited murder conviction against Timothy Masters.
Masters’ attorneys have raised questions about how the former prosecutors, Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, handled the case and said key information was withheld from Masters’ trial lawyers.
His 1999 conviction in the murder of Peggy Hettrick, built on circumstantial evidence, was overturned last week because of new DNA tests that failed to place him at the murder scene.
John Gleason, director of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Regulation, said Wednesday his office will investigate whether Gilmore and Blair had any conflicts of interest or broke any ethics rules.
Gleason said his no formal complaint was filed but officials knew about the questions through media reports.
“The bottom line is, we don’t live in a vacuum here, and when we see these types of allegations made, obviously they’re a concern to us,” he said.
Gleason said investigations normally take 60 to 90 days, but this one could take longer because parallel inquiries may delay access to some witnesses.
Don Quick, a special prosecutor representing Larimer County during Masters’ appeal, said last week he found no evidence that Gilmore and Blair knowingly withheld information from the defense, but he said investigators may have withheld information from prosecutors.
He said prosecutors are ultimately responsible for the actions of their investigators.
A special prosecutor is investigating defense attorneys’ allegations of perjury and illegal wiretapping by Fort Collins police Lt. Jim Broderick in the original investigation of Masters.
Neither Broderick, Gilmore or Blair immediately returned telephone messages.
Erik Fischer, Masters’ original defense attorney, said Wednesday a “substantial number” of items were not turned over to him during the trial.
“In some cases, the prosecutor was not provided the information, but in other cases, the prosecutors were at least provided notice that the evidence existed,” he said.
Quick acknowledged that Masters’ original defense team didn’t get at least four pieces of evidence, including notes used to build a psychological analysis and results of police surveillance of Masters that could have undermined the prosecution’s case.
Hettrick was found stabbed to death and sexually mutilated in 1987, but Masters was not arrested until 1998.
Gilmore and Blair based their case against Masters on the psychological analysis, violent pictures he had drawn and the fact that he had lived 100 feet from where Hettrick’s body was found.
They also cited the fact that Masters’ mother had died nearly four years to the day of Hettrick’s slaying. The prosecution theory was that the killer planned the slaying to coincide with the anniversary of his mother’s death, but that was undercut by the police surveillance, which was never disclosed to the defense.
Masters’ criminal lawyers Gold Coast argued that prosecutors ignored physical evidence that could have cleared Masters, including hair evidence and footprints found at the scene that didn’t belong to Masters.
Masters’ new defense team commissioned tests that found no sign of Masters’ DNA on Hettrick’s body. After a state crime lab confirmed those tests, Quick asked the judge to toss the conviction.
Authorities have said those DNA tests used techniques that were not available when Masters was convicted.
Quick said the DNA pointed to at least one other suspect. Larry Abrahamson, the current Larimer County district attorney, said only that the DNA indicated that other suspects should have been investigated along with Masters.
At Abrahamson’s request, Attorney General John Suthers has taken over the investigation of Hettrick’s death and will decide whether anyone should be charged.
The original murder charge against Masters has been dropped.