CO Rape-Murder Dilemma: Who Is A Habitual Criminal?


A man accused of raping a 61-year-old woman who died a few hours later had been released from prison less than three weeks earlier, says the Rocky Mountain News. It was the latest turn in a quarter-century of troubles for Willie James Trimble, 45, who had nine felony convictions, nearly 60 arrests, scores of tickets, and multiple stints in prison. He could have been charged as a habitual criminal – a move that would have resulted in a long prison term. Instead, the same pattern repeated itself many times. Trimble would be arrested for using drugs, or escaping from a halfway house, for example. The case would be dropped, or he would plead guilty to a less-serious charge and get a relatively short prison term. Then he would be released on parole or probation, break the rules and end up behind bars again.

His latest release resulted from a state law that requires most convicts to be let out on parole after they have served 75 percent of their sentences. His nine felony convictions were all for nonviolent crimes – four for drug possession, three for attempted escape, one for criminal impersonation and one for attempted burglary. That may have played a role in the decision not to pursue habitual criminal charges against him, said Craig Silverman, a former prosecutor: “When you look at the nature of the crimes, and consider the overcrowded nature of our prison system, it’s tough to say that he should have been locked up for the rest of his life for what amount to lower-level felonies.”


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