Reasonable Doubt: Why the media won't shut up about Todd Newmiller and why he deserves a new trial.

June 08, 2006

Since Todd Newmiller was convicted of second degree murder for the stabbing of Anthony Madril outside of the Appaloosa Gentlemen's Club on April 24, there has been a flurry of articles about the many contentious details of the case. The Gazette has given the case its fair share of ink (here and here), and Rich Tosches at the Denver Post wrote a long piece about the ordeal. The High Plains Messenger also reported on the case when Newmiller was sentenced to 31 years on May 24, and we've learned the Colorado Springs Independent is also apparently writing a story.

As much as both families certainly long for justice and closure, it's clear from the amount of media attention focused on inconsistencies in the evidence and testimonies that the matter is far from settled. The Newmiller family has made their intention to appeal clear. There has also been a near deluge of heated blog commentary at

Rather than try to recast the stories and events that have already been written about the Madril murder, we have put together a brief outline of some of the more cogent reasons why, based on our investigation, Todd Newmiller's investigation and trial were deeply flawed. This includes a new statement from one of the jurors on the trial who admitted that the guilty verdict may have been based on a misinterpretation of the meaning of "reasonable doubt", and by extension, the presumption of a given suspect's innocence. The outline:

1) Nobody witnessed Todd Newmiller come remotely close to the victim. Nobody saw Todd contact Madril, and nobody saw him stab Madril or make anything close to a stabbing motion until he slashed their truck's right rear tire.

2) In interviews conducted later on the day of the stabbing, Chisum Lopez and Charles Schwartz practically exonerated Todd. According to Schwartz, Lopez exited the truck first, too late to hear Madril, still in the truck, proclaim, "I've got a fucking knife, let's go!" In the same set of interviews, Lopez says that as soon as he exited the vehicle -- well before Madril, according to Schwartz -- he remained focused intently on Newmiller. There may have been blows exchanged between the two -- Newmiller had cuts on his face, which he claimed in a phone call were from Chisum's ring. This would explain the blood on Newmiller's clothes, none of which, DNA tests found, belonged to Madril. No blood was found either in Newmiller's pockets or in the truck's right rear tire, which he admitted to slashing with his knife, the same knife that allegedly was used to stab Anthony Madril.

4) Also, Madril had fresh cuts on his hands that investigators said were consistent with defensive wounds often seen on stabbing victims who have tried to wield off attackers. If Todd had wielded the only knife that night, he would not only have needed time to stab Madril once in the heart, but to swipe at and contact him a few times. The prosecution suggests that the stabbing happened in a matter of split seconds -- a short time for a completely unseen stabbing, and a likely physical impossibility for a knife fight.

5) According to most witnesses present, another man, Brad Orgill, was engaged in a fierce melee with the victim in front of the car. Schwartz described the two lunging at each other and pulling on each other's shirts. At an interview conducted near the crime scene, an upset Schwartz went so far as to say, according to the discovery file, "something to the effect that the big, bald guy stabbed Anthony." (p. 45) He was not referring to Todd Newmiller.

6) The Newmillers claim they were told that their sons would become suspects rather than witnesses if they did not give statements before receiving legal counsel. This statement, if true, would imply an atmosphere of coercion in the murder's investigation.

7) Perhaps the most compelling reason why Todd Newmiller's conviction should be reconsidered came out during an HPM interview with one of the jurors (who spoke only on condition of anonymity) in the trial the day before Newmiller's sentence was handed down. If this statement reflects the entire jury's perception of their mandate, then the jury failed to understand the basic concept of reasonable doubt.*

High Plains Messenger: You said something earlier, which was that you believe beyond a reasonable doubt that [Todd Newmiller] could have done it.

Juror: Yeah.

HPM: Was that really the question of the trial, or was it proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he did do it?

Juror: Oh, that's the point you're trying to make there? That's... the first one. That was the thing: could he have done it? Could he have done this --

HPM: -- well, I don't think it was ever --

Juror: And we were like, yeah, he could have done it. And this is how he could have done it, and that's how we came up with our conclusion.

HPM: Oh, so you convicted him just based on the fact that he could have done it?

Juror: There was no proof that he actually... I mean, that wasn't the question. The first question was the right one, the one you asked.

HPM: So, the question was, "Could he have done it?" Not, "Did he do it?"

Juror: Right.

HPM: OK. (pause) Is... do you think that beyond a reasonable doubt that --

Juror: -- he could have done it? Yeah. I mean, that's where we're at. I mean, that's...

HPM: Do you think beyond a reasonable doubt that he did do it?

Juror: What's that?

HPM: Do you think beyond a reasonable doubt that he did do it?

Juror: I... I don't know, man. I don't know if I can answer that. I can't... I just can't say that there's enough evidence in this case to go any other way.

There's no other way the case could have gone except, of course, not guilty for lack of evidence. It goes without saying that, if the criteria were "could" rather than "did," that the forensic evidence would also implicate Orgill, and perhaps everyone else present -- also beyond any reasonable doubt.

This discrepancy in terms explains, according to the juror, why the deliberation took only nine hours; as soon as they had convinced the last, reticent juror that Todd had opportunity to stab Madril -- that he "could have done it" -- they rendered their verdict: guilty.

Does any of this mean Todd Newmiller is innocent? Of course not. The forensic report, released about a year after the stabbing, concluded that neither Newmiller nor Orgill could be ruled out as suspects. However, Orgill had been given a plea bargain by the District Attorney's office, and was not under investigation. He was ruled out, in fact, before the physical evidence had even been opened.

Yes, Todd could have done it. Todd could have done it. But before a young man spends the next 31 years of his life in prison, he deserves to face a jury that can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he did it.

As of press time, neither Chisum Lopez nor Charles Schwartz have responded to requests for interviews. Brad Orgill declined comment.

*The jurors have all since been contacted by Newmiller's attorneys, and all refused to sign affidavits, and stood by their verdict.

Full disclosure: Todd Newmiller's friend Craig Richardson sells advertising for the High Plains Messenger.

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And just when I was starting to believe in the jury system....

...a system of peers. Ah yes, I've seen my peers walking around, shopping close to my neighborhood, walking their dogs. I'm not even sure half of them know what state they live in, let alone what "beyond a reasonable doubt should mean". The Achilles heel of a democratic society: not everyone is qualified.

Good article! Mistake on the jury's part or not it just shows again why we shouldn’t be executing people (though not the case here) based off of the same $h!t-for-brains understanding of reasonable doubt and who does a better job of presenting it.

Now, now.

The juror I spoke to was not an idiot. In fact, he was quite a bit more articulate than most people I run into on the street, and he was, unlike half a dozen others involved in this case, willing to talk about the trial. I owe him a lot for his honesty and transparency, and the last thing he deserves is a namecalling dogpile. Neither he nor the rest of the jury signed the requested affidavits, I hypothesize, because at some point they realized their mistake and that people would belittle them for it.

And they were apparently right.

The juror in question messed up. The whole jury messed up. They're not morons or ignorami, they just, for some reason or another, unanimously missed the most basic precept of a democratic judicial system.

It's a sad turn of events when this kind of thing happens, fostering the same feeling of disappointment as when you read that 96 percent of Americans can't locate Canada on a map of North America. But to blame the jurors themselves is misled; how could society have created conditions in which such a fundamental precept of democratic justice was ignored?

I'd look at education before pointing any fingers. Poor education, to me, is not only why this case got botched, but why Americans have to fight with third-world immigrants for unskilled jobs, and a host of other problems: drugs, faltering economy, overcrowded prisons, etc. etc. etc. I'm really not in the mood to diatribe, however.

That said, Todd Newmiller does deserve a new trial, because the fact is that his jury did mess up, and he is serving a 31-year prison sentence because of it. It probably took longer to write this article accurately than it did for the jury to render its decision.

Do you think the prosecution fostered the jurors' misconception of reasonable doubt? It seemed in this case that the state was in a rush to put somebody behind bars, and didn't stop to think about whether they were getting the right somebody, so it certainly worked out for them that the jury understood a very technical term in a vague and ultimately incorrect way.

If I had to guess, I'd suppose that the DA's office might just possibly have had something to do with it. They certainly could have done it.

However, I really don't have enough information to authoritatively state that they actually did mislead the jury, so I'm not going to accuse them of anything.

Gosh, Brian, I'm starting to get a little tired of teachers getting blamed for everything! I am just waiting for the article that indicates that the cause of global warming was, all along - poor teaching...

Although of course it is the task of education to instruct students about the basic principles of the democratic system in which we live, it is the task of all of us to look at our duties as citizens with probity and deep consideration.
I am reminded of a story on NPR a while ago. American Idol was just getting started, and someone interviewed a bunch of people about whether they voted in the last general election, and whether they voted for American Idol. The answer was uniform - no for the first, yes for the latter. Asked why, the respondents said "because on American idol you make a difference." This was fairly frightening - and evidence, in my mind, that bread and circuses still sell a lot better than sober thought...
It is our television and video-game ridden culture that breeds ignorance. We in education (you wondered when I would come back to that) have little chance of countering the lure of the idiot box.

In response to Brian’s comment about whether the prosecution could have misled the jury we would like to offer the following information from their closing arguments. The prosecution presented a power point presentation with a trinity of reasons Todd should be found guilty.

The first was confession. The prosecution stated that Todd confessed to stabbing Anthony Madril. Only two people said they heard Todd make a statement in the Jeep about stabbing the tire. Joel was questioned for more than 3 hours on the witness stand about this statement. Joel stated unequivocally that this was not a confession, but an attempt by Todd to calm Joel down about the wounds Todd received to his face and neck. Jason Melleck, who phoned the police to state that “the murderer’s name is Todd,” was the other person to have heard the statement. Jason erroneously concluded that the person stabbed was the person confronting Todd, because he heard Todd’s statement about the tire and knew Todd had used a knife. Both Joel’s and Jason’s behavior that night after the fight demonstrated that neither of them believed that Todd had stabbed anyone. In fact, on the witness stand, Jason described how he went home that night and masturbated.

The second was Todd’s knife which the prosecutors argued was the murder weapon. It clearly was not. As we have described on non-prophet, Todd wiped the knife with a wet Kleenex at Brad Orgill’s request after the fight. There was no blood on the knife. The knife was found to contain what appeared to be tire debris by Detective Richar after Todd’s arrest. Detective Richar did not find any blood on the knife. The knife was listed, but not present in the evidence that was sent to CBI. When it was personally delivered by Detective Jeff Nohr two month’s after the rest of the evidence had arrived at CBI, the tire debris was missing and there was a minute amount of transfer blood on the knife. CBI expert Rebecca Strub’s testimony was impeached; the statements she made at the trial regarding the knife were not the statements she made at a hearing to dismiss one day prior to the beginning of Todd’s trial. Still, this altered evidence and altered testimony were used to support the prosecutions’ claim that it was the murder weapon.

The third reason was opportunity. The prosecution presented their argument that Todd had opportunity to stab Anthony Madril for the first time in their closing arguments. The prosecution stated that Anthony hit Todd and Todd stabbed Anthony, without any reason (Anthony’s fight from the first was with Brad Orgill), without anyone seeing it, and without any evidence to support this assertion. They stated that the wounds on Anthony’s hands resulted from his hitting Todd. Todd, they said, then went on to have a confrontation with Chisum Lopez and Anthony, with a gaping wound to his right and left ventricles, went on to fight fiercely with Brad Orgill. By presenting this information in their closing arguments, the prosecution denied the defense the opportunity to refute these ridiculous distortions of evidence. The coroner’s report states that the wounds to Anthony’s hands are incised wounds, knife wounds that Anthony received as he tried to defend himself from a knife being wielded against him. The possibility of Anthony being able to fight after this type of wounding to his heart flies in the face of physiology and reason. According to our research, the prosecution’s presentation of opportunity for the first time in their closing arguments, especially given the fact that it not supported by any evidence, is reason for investigation of prosecutorial misconduct.

We believe that an independent investigation of the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department is in order. The behavior of both agencies raises serious questions about their competence and commitment to justice.

Hey Czechchick.

Sorry, I in no way meant to implicate teachers; I wrote the comment quickly and unclearly. I was speaking broadly, referring more to the importance of education in our society — you and I agree that it isn't important enough. And being a teacher, you must know that there is more to education than simply teaching and teachers. This includes curriculum, policy, priority, funding, parental involvement, modernity, context, perspective, and a slew of other factors. Culture, though, plays a huge part in the education equation, as well as government.

Again, I'd rather not get too far into it, but I certainly was not referring to teachers.

Well, maybe a few. I'm looking your way, Flitter! You're the reason I set down my clarinet!

not a prob, Brian.

All you legal eagles out there... given this info, what is the chance Todd will get a new trial?

There's a new letter from Todd Newmiller posted at Non-Prophet here:

...and I in no way meant to implicate the juror you interviewed. It's just an observation on the fact that really many people aren't qualified to make decisions about the relevance of someones life to society, and lawyers as such, through no particular fault of their own, are forced to contort things in their favor. It just plain sucks!

Mr. Arnot
I have sat back and read all the one sided lies I can handle. I spent the better part of three weeks in that courtroom every day.I heard all the accounts from all involved. I heard Mr. Newmillers weak defense and I saw and heard all the experts.The bottom line is this Todd Newmiller is a self-centered crazy person. He feels everyone should kiss his butt, and what he wants is how the world should be. He grew up upper-middle class and was used to getting his way. On the night in question he was drinking and cocky as usual. He was dress all in black and he wore a black t-shirt with a large Red Satanic Star on it. In short he was going to take on the world that night. The orignal incident did'nt even include Todd, he made it his problem because thats the kind of person he is.
What he did'nt take into account was that Anthony was bigger and badder than him or any of his friends. Mr. Newmiller was looking to fight and he got more than he bargined for. Due to the fact that Todd refused to take the stand (which you have never mentioned) we will never know for sure who he wanted to fight with, but I do know Todd was first out of their Jeep and Anthony was the first one out of the truck. Knowing Anthony as I do I can assure you he went to battle with the first one he saw(Todd Newmiller). The image presented in court is Anthony briefly came into contact with Todd in passing. Intoxicated,Stabbed and pumped up Anthony then met up with Brad and went at it with him. Anthony did'nt know he was hurt bad for a period of time of up to 4 min. By then he was already dying and had no chance. Todds brother who by all accounts was just mouth service never got involved.He knows more than he is telling. In the Jeep Todd CONFESSED,not madeup a story not puffed up his chest, not calmed down his brother CONFESSED!!!. He willingly dastroyed evidence and attempted to clean his knife. His defense was very short and weak, because there is NO defense for what Todd did. I do feel for Todds parents, having grown up in the Air Force myself I know he was brought up with high reguard for family and freedom. Todd forfited his rights to both with his actions that night.
As for the legal term Reasonable Doubt as it was stated to the jury Reasonable Doubt is a doubt any normal person would have in a give situation. Such as if two people are in a locked room there is a candy bar missing both deny eating it.It is reasonable to assume the one with chocolate on his face is guilty. Not absolutly but reasonably guilty.
Todd had oppertunity,Todd had the motive, Todd had the knife with Anthoneys blood on it. Todd CONFESSED and Todd willingly destroyed evidence.
Mr. Arnot it time for you, the other media that the Newmiller family has pursued and the Newmillers to get off the soapbox and step into the reality of what Todd has done. Murder in 2nd Degree, Guilty as charged!

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