Colorado Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, March 06, 2008, 02:33:39 PM

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March 06, 2008, 02:33:39 PM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:56:26 AM by Jeff1857
DENVER - A Colorado lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make the death penalty available for anyone convicted of a violent sexual assault on a child.

Sen. Steve Ward (R-Littleton) says prosecutors need the tool to punish those who commit the worst of crimes against children younger than 12.

"It puts it into a new class of crimes and actually an important one," said Ward.

Ward is proposing capital punishment as an option on the first offense of violent sexual assault on a child under 12, but he says prosecutors may not use it and choose instead to apply it to repeat offenders.

"What Senate Bill 195 does is make this penalty available as a tool to the prosecutors to do their work," said Ward. "I think the death penalty is important to have available to prosecutors when you have crimes as heinous as these crimes can be."

Opponents say that in 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not put people to death for rape cases because it was unconstitutional. They found it fell under the 8th Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

"The idea behind capital punishment is to execute those that commit the most heinous and atrocious murders, whether that's stabbing, shooting, bombs, whatever," said Doug Wilson, a public defender for Colorado. "It's not specifically set up - it never has been set up - for execution in cases where people are not killed. (That's) not saying it's not traumatic to the children, because it is, (and that's) not saying those folks should necessarily get out of prison if they're convicted."

Ward believes the Supreme Court's ruling leaves room for his type of legislation.

"They said in that decision that it applies to the rape of adults. They held the door open for the rape of children," he said.

Ward says even though he has bipartisan support for the bill, it may still take several years for legislation of this magnitude to push through the state legislature.

"I harbor few illusions that this is going to pass on its first attempt," said Ward.

The bill will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee in April.

Four states already permit capital punishment for repeat child rapists: South Carolina, Oklahoma, Montana and Texas. However, no one has been sentenced to death under those laws. Louisiana has a similar statute and two people have been sentenced to death there. One is currently appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and his arguments will be heard in April.

"There have been briefs filed in the Louisiana case in front of the Supreme Court by victims' groups and I've read those and they have a consistent theme," said Wilson.

Wilson says the briefs argue that once the crimes are discovered, it will keep the child from telling the police because they don't want a relative to face execution.

"(The briefs) consistently say this not only will not help the situation, this will not deter the offenses. It will actually chill the child's reporting to authorities so we will discover less of the pedophiles out there."


Please tell me how what these sexual predators don't commit something cruel & unusual to children?


It will be intriguing to see how the Ruthie and the Supremes handle the Kennedy case.


DENVER (AP) - A Senate committee approved a proposal on Monday that would allow the state to execute people convicted of sexually assaulting children under 12 years old.

The bill applies to perpetrators who threaten to retaliate against their victims, and who are convicted of a second assault on a child.

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, said the death penalty would be a deterrent to predators who have previously been convicted of sexual assault on a child.

"If it happens, it won't happen again," Penry told the committee.

Prosecutors would have to submit DNA evidence to pursue the death penalty. If there is no DNA, the maximum penalty would be life in prison.

Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the ACLU in Colorado, said she believes the bill is unconstitutional because a person convicted using DNA could face the death penalty, while another predator who did not leave DNA could avoid it.

"The same crime depends on one piece of evidence," she told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill (Senate Bill 195) sponsored by Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton, now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it faces a tough, uphill battle because of a high price tag for defending and prosecuting death penalty cases.

Doug Wilson, the state's chief public defender, said only five states - Montana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Louisiana - have similar laws on the books. He said the Louisiana law is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court and could be decided later this year.

He said children would be less likely to report a sexual assault if they thought a family friend or a parent could be executed.


April 11, 2008, 10:15:41 PM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:57:35 AM by Jeff1857
DENVER -- Colorado lawmakers have rejected a bill that would have allowed the execution of people who sexually assault children younger than age 13.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 6-4 Friday against the Senate Bill 195, which would have cost about $616,000 next year for trials, appeals, public defenders and prison costs.

Democratic Sen. Moe Keller of Wheat Ridge said social workers are worried that family members who rape children could intimidate their victims by saying the abuser would be killed if the victim tells.

The sponsor, Republican Sen. Steve Ward of Littleton, says children are already under pressure not to report sex assaults. He says prosecutors can take into account whether a family wants to seek the death penalty.


Colorado May End Death Penalty to Focus on Cold Cases
Sunday, May 03, 2009 

Print ShareThisDENVER  --  Colorado and nine other states considered abolishing the death penalty this year to save money, but Colorado's proposal has a twist: It would use the savings to investigate about 1,400 unsolved slayings.

The measure has sparked a fierce debate between prosecutors and some victims' families. Prosecutors want to keep capital punishment as an option for heinous crimes, and they say the bill has raised unrealistic hopes about solving cold cases.

Supporters of the bill say it's more important to find and prosecute killers still on the loose than to execute the ones already tried and convicted.

"The death penalty is not relevant without a murderer brought to trial," said Laurie Wiedeman, the older sister of 17-year-old Gay Lynn Dixon, whose 1982 slaying remains unsolved. "I would like to see the person who killed my sister put to death. But to have that person free to run around and committing other crimes?"

Abolishing the death penalty would save an estimated $1 million a year in Colorado now spent on prosecutors' time, public defenders' fees and appeals, according to a legislative analysis. Supporters of the Colorado measure want that money diverted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's cold case unit, which has just one staffer. The extra money could add eight people to the unit, the legislative analysis said.

The Colorado House narrowly passed the measure in late April, and the Senate is expected to vote before the session ends Wednesday.

Gov. Bill Ritter hasn't publicly said whether he would sign it, if it passes. Ritter was Denver's district attorney before becoming governor, and in that job he unsuccessfully sought capital punishment seven times. Before becoming district attorney in 1993, Ritter had expressed personal doubts about capital punishment.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and all but one of the state's district attorneys oppose the bill. Even if the savings were applied to a cold case unit, which Suthers and other said isn't guaranteed by the bill, many cases may remain unsolved.

"I think it's a sad situation," Suthers said. "You have hundreds of ... parents of murdered children, sitting there being led to believe that if they abolish the death penalty in Colorado their child's death will be solved.

"A million dollars doesn't buy you a lot of cold case investigation," he said.

Proponents of the bill, led by Evergreen-based Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, say Colorado's death penalty is so rarely used that it's not a deterrent. The group says hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted trying to put people to death when hundreds of murderers are free.

Suthers and other prosecutors say additional DNA testing, including a proposal pending in the Legislature to take samples at the time of a felony arrest, could do more than expanding the state's cold case unit to solve old cases.

Colorado has executed only one person in the past 42 years, Gary Lee Davis, put to death in 1997 for his conviction in a 1986 slaying.

Two men remain on Colorado's death row. Sir Mario Owens was convicted last year of killing Javad Marshall-Fields, a potential witness in a murder trial, and Vivian Wolfe, Marshall-Fields' fiancee. Nathan Dunlap was convicted in 1996 of murder, attempted murder and other charges for killing four people and wounding a fifth at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora in December 1993.

Both cases are in the appeals process.

The mothers of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe support the death penalty.

New Mexico this year became the second state to abolish the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007.

Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Texas considered abolishing the death penalty, but bills in those states have stalled, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

"It (budgetary concerns) was a prominent issue and an impetus for these bills getting hearings this year," Dieter said.

Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons documented 1,434 unsolved slayings in Colorado since 1970, and a CBI database for law enforcement closely matches those numbers

"We have 1,400 murderers walking around. We don't feel threatened by it, but we should," said Frank Birgfeld, whose 34-year-old daughter Paige Birgfeld disappeared from Grand Junction in July 2007 and is presumed dead.

But cold cases become harder to solve as time passes. In February, 65-year-old Tina Louise Lester was arrested in Ohio on a 1968 warrant in a Denver shooting death, but District Attorney Mitch Morrissey decided against filing charges because of the lack of witnesses who could counter Lester's self-defense claim.

"Two men in that bar, who are pivotal witnesses would have been in their late 80s," Morrissey said.

Morrissey said Denver's 11-person cold case unit sometimes identifies a suspect who is already serving a lengthy prison sentence or is dead. That brings some answers to victims' families but not the definitive conclusion of a conviction.

"Just because we're grieving doesn't mean we're stupid," said Howard Morton, executive director of Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, whose 19-year-old son Guy Oliver was the victim of a still-unsolved 1975 slaying in Arizona.

"We want these cases to be effectively addressed by the state. We know they won't all be solved," he said. "We think that some of them will be, and more importantly it sends a signal that for those who have gotten away with murder, we're coming after you."


What a phony baloney choice. As if you can't have a cold-case squad and death-penalty prosecutions at the same time. And if it really comes right down to it, I'm willing to pay more in taxes where public safety is concerned.


I'm sure the State of Colorado spends massive amounts of money on worthless crap already (pork barrel spending, etc.).  They could divert that money to the CBI's cold-case unit instead.  No increased taxation necessary - especially when raising tax rates frequently leads to diminishing returns (the State sticks up its tax rates, so the wealthy move their money out of Colorado).
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.


Death Penalty Repeal Fails in Colorado

An effort to repeal Colorado's death penalty law stumbled Monday in the State Senate after 2 hours of sometimes anguished and angry debate, leaving the bill in limbo and supporters scrambling to find votes as the end of the session looms this week.

The Colorado House voted in support of repeal, by a single vote majority, last month.

In their debate, lawmakers focused on questions of deterrence, certainty or doubt in the age of genetic evidence, and, far from least in the mix, money in a time of shrinking government resources.

As proposed, the bill would have redirected about $1 million now devoted to death penalty costs to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for investigating unsolved crimes known as cold cases. But the amendment that passed on a voice vote Monday pledged new money for cold cases -- popular with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle -- but made no mention of the death penalty. Democrats control both chambers of the General Assembly.

"They got what they wanted, and we got left behind," said Bradley A. Wood, the director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry -- Colorado, which supported repeal.

Questions of justice resonated from both sides.

Senator Morgan Carroll, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said more money for cold-case work would mean more killers brought to justice. "Justice at least means: find the person who did it," Ms. Carroll said.

She also said the costs of making a mistake when imposing the ultimate sanction were too high. "In a democracy," she said, "the decisions of the state come with blood on all of our hands in the event that we are wrong."

Senator Shawn Mitchell, a Republican, responded that life was imperfect and that some heinous crime must be set apart with greater sanctions, including the death penalty. "It is the closest we can come to justice," Mr. Mitchell said. "Not complete justice, it's just the closest we can get."

Contrary to the myths and legends of rough justice, most of the West -- with the major exception of California -- did not race back to imposing the death penalty after 1976, when the United States Supreme Court allowed states to resume the practice.

Colorado, Montana and Wyoming each have only two inmates on death row, as did New Mexico when it repealed its death penalty law in March, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based research group that opposes capital punishment. Colorado has executed only one person since 1976.

The Colorado repeal bill was very much in keeping with what has become a national debate about the financial costs of the death penalty, especially as the recession hits state budgets hard.

For example, the Republican sponsor of a death penalty repeal proposal in Kansas specifically cited cost-benefit analysis in tough times as a reason for rethinking capital punishment. The bill cleared a legislative committee and was sent back for more study, ending its chances of passage this year.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat, also mentioned cost as part of his reason for signing a repeal measure.


Colorado's death penalty lives on

Colorado's death penalty may yet live on and the state could also spend more to investigate cold cases under amendments made in the Senate to one of this year's most controversial pieces of legislation.

House Bill 1274, as approved by the House, would have repealed the death penalty as a sentencing option and used the money saved by not prosecuting and appealing such cases -- estimated to be at least $1 million a year -- to fund the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's cold-case unit.

But a new version of the bill, drafted today just 15 minutes before the Senate was slated to vote on the original version, would charge people convicted of crimes a $2.50 fee and give that cash to local jurisdictions to pay detectives overtime to work unsolved homicides. The death penalty would remain in place. It passed with the support of 5 Democrats and the Republican caucus.

The drastic change must still survive a potential challenge later tonight, a 3rd reading by the Senate and win approval from the House.

Democrat Sen. Morgan Carroll, sponsor of the original version, called the move "an ambush."

"Some people are looking for ways to avoid voting on the core issue," said Carroll, who spoke passionately about ending the death penalty. "This is a totally different bill that's not had a public hearing. It's gamesmanship that makes a mess of public policy."

Democrat Sen. John Morse, who upended Carroll's bill with his amendment, argued that repealing the death penalty is a controversial move that could have stood in the way of funding cold case resolutions. His version also directs funds to local jurisdictions rather than a statewide task force.

"The more local we can get the better off we will be in solving these cases," said Morse, who believes the fee will generate about $1 million a year.

(source: The Denver Post)


Good! It was a lowdown trick to say either we have the death penalty or we solve cold cases. They needn't be mutually exclusive. The abolitionist side were actually the ones guilty of gamesmanship here.


As Moh said itīs bad behaviour to use the DP and the cold cases against each other.

Iīm not sure if thereīs a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.

heidi salazar

Colo. Supreme Court: No Two-Year Limit In Death Penalty Appeals

Colorado law does not impose a strict two-year limit on death penalty appeals, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Counsel for Sir Mario Owens, who was convicted of two counts of murder in 2008 and sentenced to death, challenged the statutory scheme for reviewing death penalty cases.

Before the sentence was handed down, Owens' lawyers argued that it was unconstitutional for state law to impose a two-year time limit on the completion of all proceedings for post-conviction review, the certification of the record, and all appellate briefing. They also argued that the law unconstitutionally prohibited extensions of any kind beyond the two-year limit.

Arapahoe County District Judge Gerald Rafferty ruled that the two-year limit was valid, but he found the prohibition on time extensions unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious.

The Colorado Supreme Court unanimously reversed Rafferty's ruling. The trial court misconstrued statute as imposing an absolute two-year limit for appeals, wrote Justice Nathan Coats.

Because the statute "implements the legislature's direction by imposing a series of highly specific time limits, which are designed to meet the two-year goal when, but only when, that can be accomplished without violating the defendant's constitutional rights or the legislature's other expressly articulated goals, no absolute two-year time limit exists in either statute or rule."

Opinion here


April 15, 2010, 02:31:11 AM Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 06:12:06 AM by v1976ra
Boy... Colorado lawmakers are talking out of both sides of their mouths. On one hand, some are saying expand the DP to include child sex offenders. Then on the other hand some are wanting to eliminate it altogether - which for all intents and purposes - they might as well do, as they have shown no real intention of executing offenders anyway.  ::)

As for expanding the death penalty to include child sex offenders, I personally don't applaud this legislation. Yes, it feels good from an emotional POV and it looks good on paper. I'm sure it will also help further someone's political career. But here's why I'm against it:

First of all, if it becomes a DP offense, then the child rapist has nothing to lose. They will most likely go ahead and kill their victim. Why leave a living victim who can identify them if the potential punishment would be the same? That's how a criminal's mind works.

As for it acting as a deterrent, there have been too many studies which show that sexually motivated offenders cannot be rehabilitated, and generally not deterred. They're a unique (and hated) class of offenders who, more times than not, will still act on their urges regardless of the possible consequences.

I do however feel that once someone has raped a child (First Offense) that it should be a mandatory LWOP. Again, I'm making the argument without emotion. Put the emotion back into it and I'd say string them up by their genitals and let them bleed to death.... SLOOOOWLY  ;)


Sister Helen Prejean pushes Colorado to dump the death penalty

Eli Stokols

Political Reporter

8:01 p.m. MST, November 30, 2011

DENVER -- More than two decades after she served as spiritual adviser to a killer sentenced to die in Louisiana's electric chair, which served as the basis for her book, 'Dead Man Walking' and the Oscar-winning movie of the same title, Sister Helen Prejean is still on the same mission.

That mission, which began after she first engaged a convicted murderer as a pen pal, is continuing to counsel death row inmates -- and pushing for an end to capital punishment.

This week, she's speaking in Colorado, a state she hopes may soon follow the lead of Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber recently announced a moratorium on state executions.

"There's only one execution in the last 30 years and only three people on death row [in Colorado," Prejean said during an exclusive interview with FOX31 Denver on Wednesday. "So you have to ask yourself: what's going on here?"

Prejean says the death penalty remains on the books in many states, even those where it's rarely carried out, because of the "symbolism" it affords politicians -- and the "false promise" it offers relatives of victims.

"It's symbolism for the one running for office to convey they're going to be tough on crime," Prejean said. "And that's an illusory promise to make to families, so few of whom actually see a death penalty case carried out.

"That's a cruel promise to make to people that by watching the state kill that they can be healed from their hurt."

For years, Prejean's argument against the death penalty has been a moral one. But, more recently, as states continue to struggle with bloated budgets, she's been speaking more about the economic costs.

"Colorado has this machinery of death, but it's sitting in the garage not being used," she said. "And it still costs the state millions of dollars because of the money it costs to pay for all these appeals.

"Those resources need to be spent on life, not on death," she continued. "They need to be spent on police officers, at-risk children, health care -- all the crunches coming down on the state."

Prejean, who wrote a second book about two death row inmates she accompanied to their executions and her belief in their innocence, also argues that the finality of the punishment offers no way to rectify the potential execution of the innocent.

"We have known 138 cases of people who were wrongly convicted and taken off of death row," she said. "So the guilty are in with the innocent, that's for sure."

In Colorado, lawmakers last attempted to abolish the state's death penalty in 2009, when a bill that would have directed revenue saved by doing so to investigate cold cases died on the final day of the legislative session.

In light of the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, which galvanized the country in light on ongoing questions about his innocence, and the recent moratorium in Oregon, it's possible a bill to repeal the death penalty could be introduced in 2012.

The biggest obstacle to its passage would likely be state Rep. Rhonda Fields, the mother of a murdered son -- the two convicted killers of Javad Marshall Fields and Vivian Wolfe account for two of the three inmates on Colorado's death row.

Her mere presence and the power of her story carry more weight than her one vote. And she's told FOX31 that repealing the death penalty "would be a slap in [her] face."

Ultimately, if such a bill were to pass the House and Senate, it would be up to Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign it.

Asked for a comment Wednesday, Hickenlooper's spokesman offered little indication as to what the governor would do in such a situation.

"This is not an issue that the Governor takes lightly," said spokesman Eric Brown. "Most governors struggle with the enormity of the decision."

This week, she's speaking in Colorado, a state she hopes may soon follow the lead of Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber recently announced a moratorium on state executions.

=> Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh Sister Liar 8) Shame on you >:(







Attorneys For Nathan Dunlap Argue To Get Death Sentence Overturned
March 20, 2012 5:41 PM

DENVER (AP) - A man on Colorado's death row for killing four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant nearly 19 years ago asked a federal court Tuesday to overturn his death sentence.

Attorneys for Nathan Dunlap told a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Dunlap is mentally ill and that his trial lawyers failed to adequately represent him.

Paul Koehler, of the state attorney general's office, told judges that Dunlap's previous attorneys had experience in death penalty cases.

Dunlap was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing three teenagers and a mother of two at the Aurora restaurant in 1993.

He's one of three men on death row in Colorado, which hasn't executed anyone in 15 years. The death sentences of six other death-row inmates have been thrown out since Dunlap was sentenced.

"Nathan Dunlap is running out of time. This is his last, best chance," said defense attorney David Lane, who isn't representing Dunlap. "If he loses here, his odds of being executed skyrocket."

One of Dunlap's victims was 19-year-old Sylvia Crowell, who was shot from behind as she helped close the restaurant for the night.

"The hurt is still going on," her father, Bob Crowell, told The Denver Post before the hearing. "And we are somewhat anxious that somebody is going to throw a monkey wrench in there and he is not going to be executed."

The 10th Circuit judges could take months to issue a ruling, and the losing side could then ask for a hearing before all the court's judges. The court's final decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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