Latino Voices

Man Becomes Model Citizen After Being Accidentally Released From Prison 88 Years Early, Now He Must Go Back

He’d spent years wondering when the other shoe would drop. The revelation had taken him by surprise — the best possible thing that could have happened under the circumstances, his lawyer said — and yet the promise of it weighed too heavily for him to completely go along with it. Part of him was sure it wasn’t true at all.

He’d told his girlfriend, Jasmine. She didn’t seem to believe it, either. Maybe it was that even this new, shorter prison sentence still seemed too long to someone barely 20. Or maybe she didn’t like how the news seemed to change him. She bristled when he got serious and talked about marriage. Her visits slowed, then stopped. He kept her picture on the wall of his cell.

Only after Rene Lima-Marin walked out and the gate of Colorado’s Crowley County Correctional Facility shut behind him, on April 24, 2008, did he finally decide he didn’t have to worry anymore. He was 29 years old and a free man, released after serving a decade of what had first been a sentence of 98 years.

Jasmine came to see him right away. They stared at each other for what seemed like an hour. She said he looked weird. He was thinner, his long hair cut short. But he could not be denied now, standing there in person. He had told her he was going to change in prison, and he told her now that he’d done it.

They moved in together. He became a father to her one-year-old son. He found a job, and then a better one, and then a union job, working construction on skyscrapers in the center of Denver. The family went to church. They took older relatives in at their new, bigger house in a nice section of Aurora. There was another child, also a boy, and a wedding timed for when he’d be done with his five years of parole. And, eventually, the demands of everyday life papered over the past. Life became about bills, chores, church, and soccer with the boys. Days and weeks passed with only the smallest reminders of the person he’d once been.

Then on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, he was getting ready for another day in the sky, installing glass windows in buildings high above the city. His cell buzzed. He didn’t recognize the number. The woman on the line said she was from the Denver public defender’s office. She didn’t understand it all herself, not yet. The prosecutor was saying that his release from prison five years and eight months earlier — a lifetime ago, a life he’d managed to mostly will out of his mind — had been a mistake. A clerical error. A judge just signed off on the order. He had to go back.