DENVER — Nearly two decades after a decision and her client sentenced, Hollynd Hoskins still couldn’t let go of one case from 1995.
“It was devastating,” Hoskins said. “I was a young public defender representing a 15-year-old with no family guidance or support, facing a mandatory life sentence.”
Her client, Curtis Brooks was 15 and homeless in 1995 when three teenagers recruited him to help steal a car in exchange for a place to stay in Aurora. One of the teenagers shot 24-year-old Christopher Ramos that day, killing him.
Because of the law at the time, even though Brooks didn’t pull the trigger, he was charged with first degree murder and sentenced for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“This is a case where there was severe racial sentencing disparities,” Hoskins said. “You had a white 13-year-old who was more culpable with a criminal history and only did four years.”
A Supreme Court ruling in 2012 determined that life without parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. Friday, Governor John Hickenlooper pardoned Brooks, citing that ruling and Brooks exemplary rehabilitation in prison.
Brooks has earned his GED and enrolled in college courses, and received a recommendation from the warden at Arkansas Valley Correctional. Hoskins says the judge in the case, the lead investigator, a juror, and prosecutors all recommended Brooks receive a pardon.
Brooks was on the phone with Hoskins periodically throughout the day. He says despite being told he would die in prison, he always believed one day he would find a way out, and live a life that honors Christopher Ramos and his family.
“It's been a long long path, and one that I definitely think that I needed,” Brooks said. “Actions speak volumes to how you truly feel, what you truly think, and the message I would want to give to them is that going forward I intend to let my actions show how remorseful I am.”
Hickenlooper on Friday ordered that Brooks be released on July 1.