H. Michael Steinberg has 38+ years of experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Accused In Colorado Sex Crime Case Acquitted Based In Large Part On Poor Police Investigation

Former Greeley police officer Daniel Shepherd was found not guilty by a Colorado jury on February 8, 2012.

What makes this case so important – is that the jury looked at the “he said – she said” nature of the allegations – found both sides had lied or covered up – so they did what jurys are supposed to do – they focused on the absence of forensic evidence that would have pointed the way to the truth. This time – because of the incompetence of the police – there was none

In the words of one juror – who clearly got it right:

All we had to go on was their testimony,” Sanchez said. “And we couldn’t believe either of their testimonies, with her inconsistencies and previous claims, and he lied throughout most of the (investigation).

But our job is guilty versus not guilty, not guilty versus innocent.”

According to the Greeley Tribune who tracked the story – the investigation leading to the trial and acquittal – took eleven months “Eleven months of hell.”

The alleged victim had accused Shepard of unlawful sexual contact of a then 19-year-old woman, after he ordered her to leave a party March 13, 2011.

H. Michael’s Take

The jury system worked. When left with pure contradictory testimony – the jury placed the burden of proof squarely where it belonged – on the state of Colorado
As one juror put it “All we had to go on was their testimony,…and we couldn’t believe either of their testimonies, with her inconsistencies and previous claims, and he lied throughout most of the (investigation).”

Evidence that could have conclusively proven the innocence of the accused – was never preserved – the alleged victim’s clothing was never collected and tested – DNA from and other possible evidence that could have been extracted from a SANE examination and rape kit – was never obtained.

The Greeley police department, in not collecting the relevant evidence – denied the accused the benefit of evidence that could have led the District Attorney to dismiss the charges.

“Clearly, there were errors made at the start of the case, and that made the detectives work harder,” said the Greeley Police Department . “This is one of those investigations where I’d say, while very good work was done, it certainly wasn’t perfect.”

This is the kind of case that should be studied by all Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyers.

This is the kind of case that restores one’s faith in the criminal justice system and in the good common sense of the jury – the great equalizer.