In May 2006, Todd Newmiller stood before a packed courtroom and swore he did not kill Anthony Madril during a booze-fueled clash that began at a strip club.
"On that fateful night in November , I exchanged no words with Anthony Madril," Newmiller said at his sentencing hearing. "I exchanged no blows with Anthony Madril, and I most assuredly did not stab Anthony Madril."
Judge Gilbert Martinez then sentenced Newmiller to 31 years in state prison. In the almost two years that have followed, Newmiller, 34, has protested his innocence from Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility near Ordway.
On April 10, Todd Newmiller will have his best chance at vindication. The Colorado Court of Appeals will convene in Denver to hear arguments that he was denied "his right to a fair trial," jurors were given unclear instructions, evidence was mishandled and prosecutors conducted themselves unethically.
Todd Newmiller's troubles began in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2004, outside the Appaloosa Gentlemen's Club now PT's Showclub at 5975 Terminal Drive in east Colorado Springs. It was Newmiller's 31st birthday, and he and four friends celebrated at the club until closing time. Newmiller's group and another group, including Madril, a 22-year-old of Ramah, exchanged insults, then were separated and told to leave.
However, the two groups clashed again on nearby Conrad Street at Terminal Avenue. Todd Newmiller's group, riding in a Jeep, encountered Madril and two of his friends waiting in a pickup truck (see "Reasonable doubt?" cover story, Feb. 1, 2007).
In the ensuing moments, several men exited the two vehicles and Madril was stabbed once in the heart. Nobody saw it. Madril's friends put him, bleeding, into their vehicle and sped away. Later, Madril died.
El Paso County investigators would soon focus on Newmiller and decide he was the murderer, having discovered his knife and, later, trace amounts of Madril's blood on the blade. Newmiller admitted to pulling out the knife on Conrad Street, but said it was to puncture one of the pickup truck's tires, not to stab Madril.
During a 12-day jury trial, no witnesses placed Todd Newmiller in contact with Madril. Rather, they saw Madril tangle with someone from Newmiller's group Brad Orgill, a man to whom prosecutors gave a deal that would keep him out of prison in exchange for testimony.
Appeals Judges Arthur Roy, Dennis Graham and Jerry Jones will delve into more than 120 pages of arguments and counter-arguments surrounding Newmiller's conviction.
Newmiller's attorney argues Martinez should have dismissed the trial after authorities apparently mishandled Newmiller's knife. Although El Paso County detectives initially reported some kind of black substance on the knife's blade, the substance was missing when analyzed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Attorney Blain D. Myhre wrote that the change in the knife's condition warrants reversing the conviction.
"The destruction of the evidence by the state irrevocably altered the knife and calls into question the integrity of any evidence related to the knife, any substances found thereon, and the credibility of any testimony about it," Myhre wrote.
The defense had offered a theory that blood was somehow transferred to the blade of Newmiller's knife, perhaps sometime after the confrontation, when Newmiller showed his knife to Orgill. Evidence showed Orgill's clothing contained Madril's blood.
"Todd never had the opportunity to stab Anthony Madril," says Bill Newmiller, Todd's father, a former FBI agent, noting that witnesses saw his son in a standoff with one of Madril's friends.
Yet the prosecution theorized there was a brief window in which Todd Newmiller could have stabbed Madril, moments before Madril and Orgill fought.
Orgill could not be reached for comment.
The Colorado Attorney General's Office did not return calls seeking comment, but Patricia R. Van Horn, assistant attorney general, argues in paperwork that the case should not be dismissed because the defense "failed to show that law enforcement was responsible for the destruction of the evidence or that the evidence had apparent exculpatory value before its destruction, and the defendant was able to obtain comparable evidence by reasonably available means."
Van Horn also notes testimony in which Todd Newmiller said in the Jeep after the confrontation, "I stabbed him [Madril]."
Newmiller has argued that the quote was misunderstood, that he was talking about having punctured the pickup truck tire with his knife.
Myhre argues El Paso County prosecutors engaged in misconduct during the trial by failing to provide Newmiller's attorneys with police reports that could have made Orgill seem less credible. Myhre also alleges prosecutors attempted to improperly "inflame the jury's passions" during closing arguments.
Van Horn argues that the DA office's prosecutors acted appropriately. And while not speaking specifically about the Newmiller case, Denise Minish, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County District Attorney's Office, says the "allegation of prosecutorial misconduct is frequently used" as a defense tactic.