Family asks DA to reopen investigation
Homeless preacher died while being restrained in jail
The family of Marvin Booker, a homeless street preacher who died while being restrained in a Denver jail, is asking District Attorney Beth McCann to reopen a criminal investigation into his death.
On Monday, members of Booker’s family will meet with McCann to discuss the case and will hold a rally at 5:30 p.m. on the steps of the Downtown Detention Center, where Booker died July 9, 2010.
In a June letter to McCann, the family wrote that a criminal investigation should be reopened based on evidence that a Taser submitted by deputies for analysis was not the same stun gun used to shock Booker while he was restrained. The letter asserts that Sgt. Carrie Rodriguez intentionally switched Tasers because she had shocked Booker longer than the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.
“It’s imperative to figure out how, when and by whom the Tasers were switched and how the box of Tasers in Sgt. Rodriguez’s office may have factored in,” said the letter, which was signed by the Rev. Spencer Booker on behalf of the family. “No matter how many years after Marvin’s death and no matter how much city officials may wish we’d stop asking, these are not questions that can rightly go unanswered.”
Five deputies restrained Booker in the booking area of the Downtown Detention Center after he ignored a deputy’s orders because he wanted to get his shoes. They placed him face down on the floor and used handcuffs, nunchuks and a carotid neck hold to restrain him. The Taser was used while Booker was handcuffed and deputies were holding him down. The entire incident was recorded by jail security cameras.
No deputy was charged criminally in Booker’s death. In 2014, a jury in a federal civil rights trial found the city and the deputies liable in the death, and the city ultimately agreed to pay the family a $6 million settlement.
During the civil trial, the Taser was a point of dispute.
Rodriguez testified that she mistakenly gave the wrong Taser to police for analysis and left doubt about whether the Taser used to subdue Booker ever was found. Lawyers for the Booker family and the city offered conflicting evidence regarding how long a Taser was deployed against Booker, suggesting it could have been 8 seconds or as long as 27 seconds.
The Booker family has support from multiple social justice
groups in Denver, including the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, the Denver Justice Project and Progress Now Colorado.
In a news release, the Denver Justice Project said the district attorney’s office is the most influential player in the city’s criminal jus- tice system, and “has the ability to stop criminal behavior within the system by prosecuting law enforcement officers who break the law.”
The Booker case was investigated by McCann’s predecessor, Mitch Morrissey.
Ken Lane, a spokesman for McCann, said she has not decided whether to reopen the case. She will listen to the Booker family’s concerns and will take into consideration the information they provide, he said.
Relevant statutes of limitation vary with separate charges that could be pursued. Lane said he would not comment on how state limitation laws would apply in this case.
Under Colorado law, there is no limitation in charging someone with murder. Most felonies have a three-year limit, while there is an 18-month limit on prosecuting misdemeanors. In the letter, the Booker family said questions about the missing Taser must be answered so trust can be restored in the city’s law enforcement.
“Justice cannot be served in this case until questions about such key evidence are acknowledged, investigated, and answered,” the letter said. “It is a matter of good faith and credibility, not just in Marvin’s case, but in any case.”
Supporters rally in 2014 for Marvin Booker, who died at the Downtown Detention Center in Denver in July 2010. Booker’s family wants the case reopened.
The Rev. Spencer Booker talks about his brother Marvin in 2014.