The wrongful conviction against Michael Clark results from a cold case investigation into the shooting death of Marty Grisham in Boulder, CO on November 1, 1994. After initial investigation in November 1994 and some follow up in 1995, the case went cold. No one witnessed the perpetrator and the murder weapon has never been found.
In 1994, 19-year-old Michael Clark was investigated for the crime. Clark was a friend of Grisham’s daughter, Kristen, who was also a suspect in Grisham’s death, as was Kristen’s twin brother, Loren.
On November 3, 1994, Mike was interrogated and police repeatedly accused him of being involved in Grisham’s death. Over and over again, Mike maintained his innocence.
No one was charged in the crime and the police effectively discontinued active investigation in October 1995. The case remained
largely inactive until it was assigned to Detective Chuck Heidel, of Boulder’s cold case unit, in October 2009.
Det. Heidel almost immediately focused on Mike and his 1994 interrogation. In 2010, Heidel began working on the case with the Boulder District Attorney who prosecuted Mike at trial.
In April 2011, Mike was 36, married, three kids, a law-abiding citizen who was working at Bighorn Ace Hardware + Lumber Management in Silverthorne, CO; active in community, school and coaching soccer. Law enforcement had not spoken with him about Grisham’s murder since late 1994.
On April 15, 2011 two federal agents working with the Boulder cold case unit paid Mike a surprise visit at work and questioned him for close to an hour, ostensibly about an investigation into a gun-trafficking ring and a former acquaintance of Mike’s. Mike voluntarily participated in a second interview on April 20, 2011, with the federal agents.
The federal agents attempted to get Mike to confess to Grisham’s murder by lying to him about the ability of new forensic science to prove that a gun he had in 1994 was the murder weapon. They claimed, in fact, that they knew Mike’s gun had done the murder and they had narrowed the possibilities down to either Mike or Kristen Grisham as the shooter. Mike repeatedly maintained his innocence in the face of these deceptive allegations.
Almost an hour into the interview, Det. Heidel came into the room and changed its tone, accusing Mike in a pointed, confrontational manner of murdering Marty Grisham. Mike yet again maintained his innocence.
Thus, the reopening of the investigation, which solely focused on Mike, did not result in a witness to the shooting, the murder weapon, or a confession. Nonetheless, on January 5, 2012, more than seventeen years after Marty Grisham’s death, a warrant was issued to arrest Mike.
On January 11, 2012, the Boulder County District Attorney charged Mike with first-degree murder-after deliberation. Mike pled not guilty and took his case to trial.
The case was tried over nine days. Due to the passage of time, almost every witness had substantial difficulties recalling events and statements made on November 1, 1994 and the surrounding days. Many witnesses stated their only recollections were the result of reviewing old interview transcripts. Both parties, especially the prosecution, made extensive use of witnesses’ prior unsworn, out-of-court statements to refresh and impeach testimony.
On October 22, 2012, after three days of deliberations, the jury found Mike guilty. The court sentenced Mike to life in prison without possibility of parole.
THE CASE FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTION
In all cases of wrongful convictions there are key elements present that indicate and prove a person was wrongfully convicted of a crime for which he was innocent. The State's case against Michael Clark was no different as there were many elements present that indicated Mike was innocent.
- Other Suspects: The first element present in this case was there were other viable suspects that had the motive, means and opportunity to commit the crime. But because of the police's tunnel vision and their sole focus on Mike they ignored evidence that would have pointed to another suspect(s). Click to read the Other Suspects Section that detail the candidates for consideration in the murder of Marty Grisham.
- Informants: Almost a sure indicator of a wrongful case is when prosecutors are forced to use informant testimony to bolster their case. They use these informants because they have no direct evidence and a weak circumstantial case that they know will not stand on its own to obtain a guilty verdict from the jury. In Mike's case the prosecution used two informants, both career criminals, both liars, both untrustworthy and both received deals for their false testimony. Click to read the Informants Section that detailed how the prosecution used these two informants to obtain the wrongful conviction of Michael Clark.
- Flawed Investigation: Another indicator of wrongful conviction case is a flawed police investigation. These is where police develop tunnel vision, rush to judge a primary suspect even without collaborating evidence to support their judgement and theory of the case, use sloppy and/or incomplete investigative techniques, destroy and/or manipulate evidence to fit their purpose of the case. Click to read the details of how the Flawed Investigation of Mike's case led to his wrongful conviction and wrongful imprisonment.
- Inconclusive DNA: Quite often when there is DNA evidence in a wrongful conviction case the testing procedures used produce inconclusive results that do NOT conclusively point to the defendant. This is what happened in Mike's case. There was only one piece of evidence (a Carmex container) that could have even remotely connected Mike to the crime scene. The results of DNA testing produced inconclusive results and also showed there was someone else's DNA present in the interior of the container; that may have been a female DNA (remember Kristen Grisham was once considered a suspect). Unfortunately the police choose to never test this against any of the other potential suspects to see if there was a match. Click to read the details of The Inconclusive DNA Testing.
- Missing Murder Weapon: The weapon used to commit the crime was never found. But this didn't stop the police. In the 1994 investigation they used a GRC database to try and match the Bryco Jennings gun that Mike once owned as the murder weapon; testing did NOT come up with a match. In the 2009 investigation the GRC database was expanded and the Bryco Jennings gun came up as a match, BUT so did approximately 300 other guns match the profile. The results of the GRC testing resulted in inconclusive and suspicious matches. In addition the bullets last seen loaded into Mike's gun were NOT the bullets found at the crime scene that killed Marty Grisham. Click to read the details of the Missing Murder Weapon.
- Prosecutorial Misconduct: If there is prosecutorial misconduct during a trial it is a good indicator that a wrongful conviction may have occurred. There was prosecutorial misconduct in Mike's trial and it helped lead to Mike's wrongful conviction. Click to read the details of the Prosecutorial Misconduct in Mike's case.