It appears likely that Colorado state legislators will be taking up repeal legislation in their session this year.
"Death penalty: Representative Claire Levy says she is confident a repeal could pass," is Sam Levin's post for Westword. Here's the beginning:
Before Representative Claire Levy proposes legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado, she wants to be sure that it can pass.
And after more discussions with her fellow lawmakers on the topic, she says it seems like the momentum is right to get rid of the death penalty -- even if one of her Democratic colleagues is adamantly opposed to the move.
"I can't say with certainty...but I'm getting more confident," Levy says. "Those of us who are sponsoring it want to be sure we are going to be able to pass it before we introduce it. We are getting in confident in that."
At a pre-legislative forum in December, reporters asked the leaders of the Colorado General Assembly whether it was likely that a proposal to repeal the death penalty would be considered this year. At the time, Democrats said it was a possibility and John Morse, the new president of the Senate, revealed that he would likely support a repeal, which he has opposed in the past.
And though the new legislative session hasn't yet begun, the possibility of a death penalty repeal has since gotten more attention, most recently with reports that Levy, a Democrat who represents Boulder, is exploring the potential for a bill.
Representative Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat, told us last week that she has been and will remain strongly opposed to any efforts to get rid of the death penalty, calling the proposal "an insult to crime victims." For Fields, it is very personal: Two of the three inmates on death row in Colorado were responsible for the death of her son in 2005.
Today's Boulder Daily Camera endorses repeal in its editorial on the coming legislative session, "Colorado, 2013: Challenges and opportunities await."
Some legislators have been talking about revisiting a bill to abolish the death penalty in Colorado, and such early talk has gotten some high-profile support including from Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett.
It's more expensive for the state to kill a murderer than to keep him in jail for life. The last time such a move was considered, the money saved from death penalty cases was going to be applied to reviewing cold cases. We agree with the death penalty opponents who argue that the punishment is unevenly applied and politicized; it wastes money and time; and that it doesn't serve as a deterrent to the types of crimes that qualify for it.
Last year, Connecticut became the 17th state to eliminate the death penalty, the fifth state to do so in just five years. Colorado should join that list.
The December 27 issue of the Denver Post also endorsed repeal in the editorial, "Why Colorado should end the death penalty."
Boulder state Rep. Claire Levy is reportedly testing the waters for a possible bill to end the death penalty in Colorado. We hope she takes the plunge. You can't pass legislation unless you try, and the stars may finally be aligned for success on this difficult issue.
As The Denver Post's Jessica Fender pointed out in an article Wednesday, several factors could work in favor of death-penalty opponents. Not only do Democrats control both the House and Senate, but Gov. John Hickenlooper has indicated he might be open to the idea. Although Hickenlooper did not support abolishing the death penalty when he ran for office in 2010, he now says that "capital punishment is another one of those things where I haven't come to rest on a position."
From our perspective, it would be better if the governor favored banning capital punishment outright, but maybe that's not far in the wings. In the meantime, if he's looking for reasons to embrace abolition, we'd be happy to help out.
Start with the fact that capital punishment is nearly extinct in Colorado already as a practical matter, with only one execution occurring in the past 45 years. Admittedly, part of the reason for this long dry spell has to do with court decisions at various times that pushed some inmates off death row. However, the bigger reason is that prosecutors don't often seek the death penalty and juries are reluctant to embrace it when they do.
The Denver Post news article referenced in the editorial is, "Death penalty foes may try to repeal Colorado's ultimate punishment," by Jessica Fender. It's an excellent primer on the Colorado landscape.
Foes of capital punishment for months have quietly sought advice and support for a campaign to end Colorado's death penalty even as a series of horrific, high-profile murders have unfolded at home and nationwide.
Their adversaries — and some traditional allies — question the timing, saying fresh memories of mass shootings in Aurora and elsewhere, the slaying of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway and other grisly crimes could turn lawmakers against potential legislation in 2013.
But those incidents could also strengthen efforts to end capital punishment, said state Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, who pointed out that the death penalty is either unlikely or impossible in many of the state's most recent cases.
"These are horrific crimes, but the death penalty will probably not be imposed. If anything, it reinforces the notion that (the death penalty) is outmoded," Levy said. "Why do we have this law on the books if it doesn't prevent these types of crimes?"
Three years after a prior attempt to end the death penalty failed, the political playing field looks more favorable, and advocates like Levy have added research critical of how the death penalty is applied to their arsenal.
On December 30, the Post reported, "Rep. Fields wants Colorado voters to decide death penalty question," also written by Fender.
A lawmaker who saw her son's killers sentenced to die says Colorado voters — and not 100 lawmakers under the state Capitol's golden dome — should decide whether to abolish the death penalty.
As state Rep. Rhonda Fields' Democratic colleagues attempt to gather support for ending capital punishment through legislation, she has started work on a bill that would put the death-penalty question on the 2014 ballot, she said.
Her counterproposal sets the stage for a political showdown on a traditionally touchy topic at the Capitol, where some key officials' stances against abolishing the death penalty have recently softened.
"Colorado lawmakers should not slam the door on justice for those who commit heinous crimes," Fields said. "I believe that society must be protected, and the voters should decide the fate of capital punishment."Colorado has executed one man since the death penalty was reinstated in Colorado in 1975. Three men currently wait on death row.
"Boulder DA in favor of axing death penalty," is written by Mitchell Byars for the Boulder Daily Camera.
As Colorado lawmakers consider repealing the death penalty, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett said he would most likely be in favor of a bill doing away with capital punishment, a stance that is not surprising given Boulder's history -- or lack thereof -- with the practice.
Three years after a previous attempt to end the death penalty failed, some legislators -- including Boulder's Rep. Claire Levy -- have said they are once again looking into doing so. While Garnett said he would have to review the specific language of any proposed legislation to end it, he did say he supported doing away with the punishment.
"As the D.A. in Boulder I want to be a voice for a progressive approach to law enforcement and public safety," Garnett said. "I don't think the death penalty is a tool that is useful or should be a part of law enforcement in Colorado."
Garnett said the problem with the death penalty is a practical one. Very few cases ever meet the criteria to seek the death penalty, and because trials involving the death penalty take longer and often see more appeals, they cost prosecutors more to take to trial.
"If something is not working or not relevant, I tend to say, 'Why do we even have this on the books?'" Garnett said. "It just isn't used very often."
Westword reported on December 27, "Death penalty: As legislators consider repeal, John Morse says he's now supportive." It's by Sam Levin.
With the new year comes a new legislative session, and there's already talk about a potential effort to repeal the death penalty in Colorado.
And John Morse, a Democrat and the new president of the Senate, says he is likely to support a repeal. This would be a major shift from his previous stance on the matter -- and it will be a personal struggle for him, he says.
Representative Mark Ferrandino, the new speaker in Colorado, told reporters that he has spoken to both interest groups and other legislators about the death penalty, and said his opinion has not changed on the matter. "I voted in favor of a repeal and would continue to be in favor of repealing the death penalty," he said.