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Defense attorneys and prosecutors in Boulder and across the state have been left reeling by the death last weekend of Cary Lacklen, a lawyer who served for more than three decades in the public defender's office.

"He was the epitome of a public defender,â said Karen Pereira, the office manager for state Public Defender's Office in Boulder. "He was the person who championed the poor. I don't think there will ever be another like him.â

Lacklen, 57, was found dead on Saturday in his Boulder home. Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure determined the cause of death was suicide.

His family and friends remembered a passionate, hard-working man who always found the time to fight legal battles for those who needed his help the most.

His son, David Lacklen, said his father was driven to make sure every defendant got the representation he or she deserved, regardless of their ability to pay.

"I don't think it was ever a question of not taking them on,â he said. "He had the background, and he had the work ethic, and he figured if he wasn't on them, then someone else might not do the job right.

"I remember growing up, he would disappear six months at a time working on a death penalty case.â

When David Lacklen's friends got in trouble in college, his dad was there to help them out in court - and never asked to be paid, his son said.

Lacklen brought that same intensity to his family life, his son said. Cary Lacklen had wrestled at Duke University, and introduced his son to the sport.


"I don't think he missed one of my matches in eight years of wrestling, often losing his voice at the matches,â Lacklen said. "He was there for those heartbreaking losses, and the big wins as well.â

Bert Nieslanik, who worked for Lacklen in the public defender's office when his career was first beginning in the mid-1980s, said Lacklen wanted lawyers to do everything they could to represent their clients - and, Nieslanik said, he led by example.

"He was a wonderful mentor, but not in the sense that he would tell you what a great job you were doing - he would show you what you could do,â Nieslanik said. "He was like a bulldog and wanted more dogs in the fight. He taught you how to stand up to authority and not be afraid.

"He was always about what was best for the client, everyone and everything else be damned.â

Prosecutors who spent decades battling Lacklen in court praised him on Monday. Prosecutor Pete Maguire called Lacklen "a ferocious advocate.â Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy called him "incredibly honest and hard-working.â

Just this spring, Lacy worked with Lacklen to help move John Engel, a 21-year-old man convicted of killing his adoptive mother and grandmother at age 14, out of prison and into a halfway house.

"He had a lot to do with the system coming together and working for John Engel to help make him a productive member of the community,â Lacy said.

Lacklen's family members said they are trying to organize a memorial on Wednesday and will print notice of the event in the Camera.

Archived comments

This is just a shock. Cary was someone I knew I could depend on. His energy being out there spread out all over. He was the definition of integrity. This is such a profound loss.


6/23/2008 9:44:51 PM

I didn't know the man but his record of service to others speaks for itself.


6/23/2008 10:32:58 PM

I'll never forget the kindness and generosity Cary showed me and my daughter when we moved here from Florida. His thoughtful suggestions about everything from dry cleaners to car repairs clearly sprang from his caring and concern for family and friends. And Cary's compassion for the poor and powerless was obvious in his passionate support for politicians and causes that would best serve their needs. Cary was wonderful man and I feel very fortunate to have known him.


6/23/2008 11:37:31 PM

I am one of the parents that Cary helped out when my children were teenagers. Cary was a good friend of the family, and as a father, he had no greater passion than for his son.

His death is a stunning blow to many of us who counted on many years ahead to enjoy his intelligence, his care and his intensity.


6/23/2008 11:52:40 PM

As a young professional just entering death penalty defense work, Cary was a role model and an inspiration to me. The last time I saw him, I told him about a frustrating case where the attorneys were less than thrilled to be defending my client. Cary's ideas for how to handle the problems were so radical and bold - I was too scared to try them out, but I was also so impressed by his creativity, his passion, and his belief that nothing was off limits when defending those whom society has already written off. In addition, Cary was a tireless, loving and thoughtful father figure to not only his son David, but also to his son's friend David, and my sister. "Family" extended far beyond bloodlines to Cary, and he will be dearly missed by the many he took under his wing over the years.


6/24/2008 8:15:24 AM

I was fortunate to have served with Cary on the board of directors for the Boulder Shelter for the homeless. He was an inspiration to me regarding his deep concern for not only caring for people but in protecting their rights. He will be missed by his friends, loved ones but also the thousands of people he helped.

6/24/2008 8:42:04 AM

Cary's memorial service will on Thursday, June 26th at 2:00 at the Chautauqua Greens.


6/24/2008 9:11:38 AM

This is truly a sad day for Cary's son David and the Boulder Community. Cary was a tireless advocate for the criminally accused in Boulder County as well as a political activist working on issues close to his heart. I knew his passion first hand, having worked with him for 18-plus years. "Tireless advocate" was what he was all about.

6/24/2008 9:40:37 AM

As a young lawyer in the early 1990's, I spent several weeks in Boulder working on a criminal matter involving a death-sentenced client I was representing in another state. Cary gave us invaluable support and advice throughout our litigation of that case, and opened the Boulder PD's office to our team as if we were part of his own professional family. He was a giant and will be greatly missed.


6/24/2008 9:50:43 AM

My friend just got arrested last night at 10:45 trying to get something to eat at Wendy's on his way home from work at Storage Tek on his bike. He was denied service because he was not in a motorized vehicle.

I would have called Cary for advice on what to do.


6/24/2008 12:22:29 PM

I am very sad to hear this news. Whether I was prosecuting a case against his client or working with Cary defending clients, it was always a pleasure to be in the courtroom with him. A true gentleman. My thoughts and condolences are with his family. Mel Tatsumi


6/24/2008 3:17:15 PM

"Champion of the people?" Come on, you bestow those type of comments on someone who dies in combat, not someone that kills himself.


6/24/2008 3:19:11 PM

My heart goes out to Cary's family and friends. I know we will all miss him very much. Cary was a good man with strong ethics, he stood up for what was right and was always helping others before himself. I appreciate the "get out of jail free" card that Cary gave me for my high school graduation, and all the ways he went above and beyond the call of duty to help me when I was in need. Cary was a maverick in the courtroom, schmoozing with the prosecuters and then kicking their butts, and at the end of the day, they still had positive working relationships; they showed me that the justice system can function with regard to the needs of its citizens and that "the man" is not really what everyone says.

Cary was there for Lacklen & Bluth like they were his twin sons. He gave David so much love and advice, I looked up to the way he extended himself to others who weren't even blood relatives.

I will remember Cary for the man he was. The only positive I can see in this is that whatever horrible things he was struggling with here, he is now relieved of. Although I will miss him, may his soul rest in peace.


6/24/2008 4:15:25 PM

Please, Dinger and others who may have negative things to say: Please have respect for the life of a good man and leave negative comments away from the public eye. This is a terrible thing and we may all feel our own ways about it, but it would be best to not talk badly about Cary on the internet. Thank you for your consideration of his family who may be reading this.


6/24/2008 4:22:17 PM

Cary was a great guy. He made me laugh and even though he gave me hell, and could be difficult at times, I adored him. He always made me laugh. He was there for the poor, working tirelessly for people that society threw away, and he was there for his friends. He was someone you could count on and would go out of his way to help you if he could. I love you, Man!


6/24/2008 4:37:43 PM

I've been gone from Boulder for over 20 years. I practiced law in Boulder in the 1980's. I knew Cary to be a tireless and exemplary advocate for his client's in the Public Defenders Office. Beyond all that, he was a real friend and a great guy and I'm saddened to learn of his death.

Vic Gold


6/24/2008 8:05:36 PM

He was not the champion for the poor as stated. He was lazy and many times i saw people take a plea that they didn't deserve because he was too aloof to defend his client. That is the truth like it or not.

I personally had Cary Lacken removed for ineffective council. He was a defendant's worst nightmare. One lazy worthless slob he was.


6/24/2008 8:54:15 PM

Prosecutors praised Cary Lacklen because he sold out every defendant that came his way.

The guilt finally took its toll on him and he outed himself. Justice has been served, next case.


6/24/2008 10:58:00 PM

I was one of the many baby birds that Cary took in under his wing when I moved to Colorado from Florida. I can remember the random times that he would just show up at the apartment to take me off on some excursion in efforts to make sure I was getting oriented to my new surroundings. From getting maps of the city, to trying on ski gear, to showing me the local consignment shops (since Cary never believed in buy anything new:) Cary pursued everything he put his mind to with deliberation and care. I love him and will miss him dearly. I am also glad that Cary is in peace now.




6/25/2008 1:13:19 PM

I am deeply saddened and shocked about Cary's death. Like Mel Tatsumi and Victor Gold, I knew Cary as a gentleman, a terrific advocate, and a gentle soul. I will miss him as will many in our community.

Steve Meyrich

6/25/2008 3:13:11 PM

How did he kill himself? Drugs or lead poisoning or a rope.


6/25/2008 6:57:31 PM

I really liked the statement by a female colleague today who spoke of him going through her briefs and making notes on what she needed to do. And going through the trash (or police scanners as another participant related) or wherever he needed to go to get his information. When she confronted him about this, something like "What the f*** do you think you are doing, going through my briefs??!!", he responded, dispassionately that he thought she had a good case, and given the suggestions, had a good chance of winning.

Which she admitted in retrospect was true.

I really like that he didn't defend his actions and just moved forward to the intent. That is what I, myself will continue to do. I consider myself vindicated by knowing that about his reaction. Thanks, Cary. Love you.


6/27/2008 12:11:51 AM

Many of you might object to this posting now that he is gone, especially since he picked suicide over getting the help he needed most. I also knew Cary by his actions. Cary was an underhanded psychopath that illegally used the resources available to him to interfere in the lives of others when he didn't get his way. A terribly disturbed child to the end. Steve can confirm----oh, sorry Steve. This might put you in a pickle. You should have gotten rid of him in the late 80's. Remember Steve?


6/27/2008 10:34:40 AM

Well dbluth, you are correct about two of your accusations. The screen name happens to provide anonymity (feel its needed) and, my posting unfortunately offended you and possible others. Regardless, my statements in the original posting were true and tamed considering the facts. Removing it will never change that. A public figure using public resources to harm others in self-serving pursuits is also disgusting and was covered up for years. If you feel that my statements could not be true, ask those responsible for managing the man.


6/27/2008 12:28:20 PM

PC, you are an absolute coward. Why don't you state who you are. Keep your opinions to yourself, there is no need to post such disgusting blogs in this time of mourning for so many. I hope you feel real vindicated in stating your opinions in anonymity behind the guise of a non-descript screen name. The world would be better without people like you. You absolutely disgust me.


6/27/2008 11:37:49 AM