Lawmakers cheer judge’s ruling to free re-incarcerated inmate Rene Lima-Marin

Author: Ernest Luning - May 16, 2017 - Updated: May 16, 2017

Rene Lima-Marin and his sons JoJo and Justus are pictured in this undated family phtograph. (Photo courtesy Jasmine Lima-Marin)
Rene Lima-Marin and his sons JoJo and Justus are pictured in this undated family phtograph. (Photo courtesy Jasmine Lima-Marin)

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle hailed a judge’s ruling Tuesday that ordered Rene Lima-Marin freed after he had been sent back to prison due to what officials determined was a mistaken early release from a 98-year sentence.

“Justice has been served, and now Rene can live out his second chance with a loving family that’s been waiting patiently for his return,” said state Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, who last month sponsored a resolution asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to grant clemency to the Aurora man.

Both the House and the Senate passed the resolution unanimously in the last weeks of the legislative session and sent it to the governor, who has yet to say whether he’ll take action on it.

But on Tuesday, 18th Judicial District Court Chief Judge Carlos Samour, Jr., ruled on a pending writ of habeas corpus and ordered Lima-Marin, 38, released after finding that he was being “unlawfully detained. … No other remedy will result in justice in this case,” Samour wrote in a lengthy decision.

State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, who co-sponsored the legislation with Williams in the House, cheered the ruling.

“I am so happy for Rene Lima-Marin and his family!” Salazar told The Colorado Statesman. “As a Colorado General Assembly, we stood up for him and his family against the injustice of his continued incarceration.”

Lima-Marin, then 19 years old, and an accomplice were sentenced in 2000 to 98 years in prison on numerous charges — including burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping — stemming from two video store robberies the pair had committed two years earlier. While their sentences were supposed to be served consecutively, a clerical error meant that the prison system listed the sentences as concurrent and paroled Lima-Marin after he’d served just eight years. (The error in his accomplice’s sentence was discovered when that case was appealed.)

After Lima-Marin had been free for nearly six years — eventually becoming a glazier, marrying his wife, Jasmine, and becoming a father to their two sons, all while staying active in their church and the community — authorities realized their error in 2014 and threw him back in prison to serve the 90 years remaining on his sentence.

Samour didn’t mince words in his ruling.

“Although the Court recognizes the importance of correctly applying sentencing laws and regularly enforcing sentences legally imposed, it cannot do so blindly here without regard to the government’s conscience-shocking deliberate indifference and the appalling consequences of the protracted, unjustifiable, and extremely prejudicial delay in re-incarcerating Lima-Martin,” he wrote. “Requiring Lima-Martin to serve the rest of his prison sentence all these years later would be draconian, would deprive him of substantive due process, and would perpetuate a manifest injustice.”

In April, Williams spearheaded a joint resolution calling on Hickenlooper to “help a father reconnect with his redeemed life.”

While Williams and Salazar have been fierce opponents and exchanged some bitter words over immigration policy earlier in the session, they agreed to work together as prime sponsors of the legislation. State Sens. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, and Dominick Moreno, D-Thornton, sponsored the resolution in the Senate.

“Redemption, a second chance, and forgiveness are all woven into the fabric of America’s foundation,” Williams said when he introduced the measure. “Rene was able to turn over a new leaf, start a family, and become a productive, lawful member of society. He rose to the occasion when given the opportunity and showed the world what a true ‘comeback’ story looks like.”

After the judge’s ruling came down Tuesday, Williams applauded the decision and name-checked his fellow lawmaker for their work together.

“I believe, in some small but significant way, the resolution that Rep. Salazar and I passed in the Legislature helped give Judge Samour additional confidence in his decision to free Rene,” he said in a statement.

“I was proud to have worked side-by-side with Rep. Dave Williams in sponsoring the unprecedented resolution calling for Mr. Lima-Marin’s release,” Salazar said. “Rep. Williams did a great job leading the effort.”

Hickenlooper’s office said in a statement that the governor plans to consider if the judge’s ruling has an impact on a pending application for clemency, noting that, “The clemency process is separate from today’s decision.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.