Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. What do these four states have in common? All four are death penalty states, but in each state there is a governor moratorium on executions.
As early as 1897 Colorado first abolished the death penalty. In 2009 a bill to abolish the death penalty failed by one vote.
According to the Death Penalty Information Centre, the 2009 bill including earmarking death penalty prosecution funding to instead go towards cold case murder investigation. The money could have been used toward solving over 1000 cases, and staffing an office to do so.
From 1859 to 1976 the state executed 101 prisoners. The last execution in Colorado was in 1997.
There are currently 3 prisoners on Colorado’s death row.
On May 22, 2013 Governor John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order to give a temporary reprieve to one of the men on death row.
The Governor has said of death sentencing, “As Governor, I must either direct state employees to execute a human being, or I must exercise my constitutional authority to stop an execution. Both paths require an affirmative decision by me, and the prospect of either decision has been daunting. It has forced me to think of the issue in a personal way because it is on my conscience the decision will weigh. I am confident that most Coloradans – no matter what their views on the death penalty may be – will respect and understand the unique burden of this decision.”
In a press release Hickenlooper further clarified his position, and outlined the many considerations that led to his decision. “If the State of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado’s system for capital punishment is not flawless. The inmates currently on death row have committed heinous crimes, but so have many others who are serving mandatory life sentences. … As one former Colorado judge said to us, ‘[The death penalty] is simply the result of happenstance, the district attorney’s choice, the jurisdiction in which the case is filed, perhaps the race or economic circumstance of the defendant.’”
It certainly must be a difficult decision to be the final word on whether or not a person lives or dies. While the governor’s stance is appreciated, Colorado still has a death row, and prisoners whose fates will be left up to a future governor.
Denver DA Beth McCann is a vocal opponent of the death penalty. She has promised to not to use the death penalty, and is a supporter of abolishing the practice. She has said, “I don’t think that the state should be in the business of killing people,” and that she would support repeal of the punishment.
Lucía Guzmán, the Minority Leader in the Colorado Senate, introduced a bill this February in a failed attempt to abolish the practice.
Get involved and show your support. Add your voice to the debate, and help end the death penalty in Colorado.
Resources for Colorado
Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation