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303-764-1400 Applying for a Public Defender

Commutations and Pardons

After a person convicted of a crime has exhausted other avenues of relief, they may choose to request clemency from the Governor. This involves asking the Governor to commute (shorten) a person’s sentence or to pardon (publicly forgive) the person’s conviction.

A pardon may relieve a person of collateral consequences relating to a conviction. A person who is in prison should work with their case manager to apply for clemency. A person who is out of custody may find resources relating to clemency here.

Korey Wise Innocence Project

Despite safeguards in our criminal legal system, innocent people are convicted of crimes and sentenced to years in prison. The Korey Wise Innocence Project (KWIP) at the University of Colorado Law School works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted in Colorado.

The Project provides free investigative and legal services to people serving time in Colorado prisons for crimes they did not commit. People claiming innocence can apply to KWIP for help. The Project screens applications carefully and then selects the most promising ones for investigation and litigation. KWIP is dedicated to doing what it can to fix as many mistakes as possible.

Prevent Future Injustices

The Project also advocates for legislative reforms to prevent future injustices. OSPD is limited by statute in the area of post-conviction relief, but we support KWIP on individual cases as needed by the KWIP lawyers. In addition, our team partners with KWIP on legislative reform efforts.

Spero Justice Center Helps with Excessive Sentences

Spero Justice Center is an organization committed to eliminating unjust and extreme sentencing practices from the American legal system. Based in Colorado, the staff at Spero are dedicated to:

  • Ending excessive sentencing practices in Colorado
  • Representing individuals serving extreme sentences to seek reduction of those sentences
  • Fighting for decarcerative policies
  • Changing false, dehumanizing narratives about incarcerated individuals
Learn more here

District Attorney Conviction Review/Conviction Equity Units in Denver and Jefferson Counties

Persons who are serving sentences or who have served sentences in prison can suffer from conviction or sentencing injustices that might not rise to the level of actual innocence. While some prosecutor offices have staffed conviction integrity units to review claims of actual innocence, Denver and Jefferson County DA offices have started Conviction Review Units that consider whether justice, not just innocence, requires a second look at the conviction or the sentence imposed in a particular case.

The Denver District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (“CRU”) accepts submissions to review cases of defendants who deem their sentencing is not compatible with current standards of fairness. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity and Equity Unit Identifies past sentences that are disproportionate and unfair to seek the reduction of those sentences.

The Colorado Public Defender’s statute prevents public defender representation of persons in these cases. You need to apply on the District Attorney websites to represent yourself or seek the assistance of private counsel to submit an application for review. Visit the Denver District Attorney website and the First Judicial District DA Office website for additional information.