AURORA | An Aurora armed robber mistakenly released from prison early who built a successful life and started a family, only to be tossed back in prison when state officials realized their mistake, should be set free, a judge ruled Tuesday.
In a dramatic 165-page ruling that was heavy on criticism for state officials, Arapahoe County Chief District Judge Carlos Samour said releasing Rene Lima-Marin from prison was the only appropriate response to a complicated and “thorny” case.
“Because the Court finds that Lima-Marin is being unlawfully detained, he is ordered released. No other remedy will result in justice in this case,” Samour wrote.
The ruling, handed down Tuesday afternoon, opened with a quote from Alexander Hamilton that said: “The first duty of society is justice,” and went on to criticize state officials, who Samour said acted with “shocking” and “deliberate indifference.”
A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, which is holding Lima-Marin in the Fremont Correctional Facility, did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County district attorney’s office, which prosecuted his initial case and started the process that led to his being locked up again in 2014, declined to comment and referred questions to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which argued for Lima-Marin’s continued incarceration. A spokeswoman for the Colorado AG did not return a request for comment.
Samour’s order detailed a litany of errors made by state officials, including the local prosecutors who failed to double check the sentencing documents and didn’t notice Lima-Marin was erroneously free when they prosecuted him on a minor traffic charge in 2012 — a case handled in the same courthouse where he was originally sentenced to 98 years in prison.
But the order was especially critical of state prison officials and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which Samour said had chance after chance over more than a decade to spot their many errors — not just in Lima-Marin’s case but also that of his co-defendant — but failed time and again.
“The government acted with deliberate indifference and that such indifference is shocking to the contemporary conscience,” he said.
The eventual decision to throw Lima-Marin back behind bars, despite his success as a free man and the toll his incarceration would take on his family and community, was especially galling, Samour said.
“The government’s disgraceful attitude completely ignores the human toll of its deliberate indifference; as such, it is deserving of strong condemnation,” he said.
Lima-Marin, 38, was convicted in 2000 on multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping and burglary after he and another man robbed two suburban Denver video stores at gunpoint. A judge issued him back-to-back sentences for a total of 98 years.
But a court clerk mistakenly wrote in Lima-Marin’s file that the sentences were to run at the same time. Corrections officials depend on that file to determine how much time an inmate should serve.
Lima-Marin was released on parole in 2008. He held a steady job as a window glazer, got married and had a son before authorities realized the mistake in January 2014, when a team of police officers returned him to prison to complete his sentence.
During those six years when he was free, Samour said Lima-Marin did everything he was supposed to, including completing parole without a single violation.
“Lima-Marin did what the government required him to do: he re-integrated himself into the community,” he said.
State lawmakers in the recently completed session passed a bill calling for Lima-Marin’s release.
But Samour said there was no need to wait for a decision from Gov. John Hickenlooper, despite the complexity of the situation.
“That does not mean the Court should punt to the Executive Branch,” he wrote. “There is a way for the Court to dispense justice in this case: by ordering the release of Lima-Marin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.