Former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, left office last week, to be replaced by Denver State Representative Beth McCann, the first woman ever to hold that seat.
The Colorado Independent takes a look at Morrissey’s legacy – the accomplishments he has worked hard to be remembered by, and the failures that his critics will not forget.
Morrissey, who was term-limited, made a name for himself nationally as a pioneer in the use of DNA evidence to solve crimes, especially cold cases. His office used genetic fingerprinting to crack at least 120 unsolved crimes – a topic he trumpeted upon leaving office. His supporters say he was a consistent and ferocious defender of victims’ rights.
Yet Morrissey, who declined to be interviewed for the Independent’s story, has also built a record of pressing charges against people of color and those facing addictions, mental illness and poverty, including homelessness.
For years, he also refused to address widespread concerns about his consistent refusal to bring criminal changes against uniformed police officers and sheriff’s deputies who beat or killed people on duty. Morrissey also refused to discuss the case of Clarence Moses-EL, whom a jury exonerated in November after he had spent nearly half his life behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit. Critics say it is hard to measure the damage Morrissey inflicted upon minority communities.
McCann won office on a reform agenda, promising more transparency in the DA’s office, more careful consideration of how its practices play out along racial lines, and possible reforms to keep more kids, addicts, mentally ill and poor Denverites out of the criminal justice system.
When Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican who represents Aurora and the Denver suburbs, held a public event at a library over the weekend, he likely did not expect so many to show up. But hundreds of citizens swarmed the library, many hoping to speak with Coffman about how he and Republicans in Congress plan to replace Obamacare if they repeal the national healthcare reform law as promised. Coffman himself has recently argued for repeal of the law.
But Coffman did not stick around to answer questions at the library. Instead, he ducked out through a side door before the scheduled end of the event. It was a bad look for the local congressman as TV cameras rolled and national publications picked up the news in the following days.
Speaking to The Colorado Independent today in Denver, Coffman said he did not intend for the public event to be a town hall meeting, but rather a one-on-one event for constituents. He said he is in the process of setting up a “very large venue” and trying to “really get the word out for people to come.”
That is a departure from an earlier statement Coffman released in which he characterized the library event as one disrupted by the “antics” of “partisan activists” who were “angry at the election results” and the “impending repeal of Obamacare.”
The Independent reports on whether what happened over the weekend is the spark of something similar to protests that animated the Tea Party. Cornell University professor Lawrence Glickman, who specializes in American political history, thinks it is possible. As constituents contact their representatives, what happened with Coffman could be replicated in different parts of the country,” he told The Independent.
A few thousand Denverites in snowboots turned out this morning for the city’s annual Martin Luther King Day parade. The Marade, as the event is known in the city, started at City Park’s statue of Martin Luther King, at the foot of which gathered Gov. John HIckenlooper, Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, several members of the state’s Congressional delegation, a few dozen state lawmakers and other dignitaries.
For Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who led the march, things went far more smoothly than last year, when activists from Black Lives Matter and other groups commandeered the parade from him.
A few days before Donald Trump’s inauguration and a few days after the media firestorm caused by Trump’s comments criticizing U.S. Rep. John Lewis, this year’s Marade, Hancock said, was about unity. “That’s the way I like it,” he told the Independent.
Wellington Webb, who was Denver’s first black mayor and the official who commissioned the MLK statue, said “Anything John Lewis said, I stand in support of.”
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