Under a formerly obscure 19th century state law, two Colorado judges have been asked to decide whether four men should be tried in rape and murder cases. In rare circumstances, the law gives judges the power to decide whether a person should be charged as a criminal, reports the Los Angeles Times. The first case involves the 2000 alleged sexual assault of a Denver-area teenager, who initially did not want to pursue charges. When she wanted to go to court several years later, the district attorney did not.
In a second case, a sheriff and coroner are seeking to use the same law to force a district attorney to try a murder case that he believes is not provable. Both cases have stirred debate over prosecutorial power and prompted a challenge of the law’s constitutionality. A handful of states have laws like the Colorado statute, although judges have rarely exercised such powers.