"Death-penalty foes turn up heat on Gov. Hickenlooper," is by John Ingold for the Denver Post. Here's an extended excerpt:
Attorneys for Colorado death-row inmate Nathan Dunlap are working on a clemency petition in the hopes of persuading Gov. John Hickenlooper to spare the killer's life.
Records show, however, that the petition will not be the first outreach by Dunlap's attorneys to the governor's office. E-mails provided to The Denver Post as part of an open-records request reveal that Dunlap's attorneys have been in regular contact with members of Hickenlooper's legal team.
The messages are mostly brief notes alerting Hickenlooper's lawyers to new developments on death-penalty policies around the country or reports on capital punishment in Colorado. But they speak to a larger, quiet effort to change Hickenlooper's mind on the death penalty, amid signs that the governor's position has recently wavered.
That effort will gain more attention when a bill to repeal capital punishment is introduced in the legislature as soon as this week. For a man in charge of a state that hasn't executed anyone in 15 years, Hickenlooper will soon have two big decisions to make on the death penalty.
"I think they're listening. They're always listening," Lisa Cisneros, the executive director of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said of the governor's office. "But I don't know where they're leaning on it."
Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat expected to be one of the bill's sponsors, said the bill would repeal the death penalty as a sentencing option on future crimes. For murders committed after the bill becomes law, the highest punishment would be life in prison without parole.
The bill would not affect current murder cases, such as the one against Aurora theater-shooting suspect James Holmes. It also would not have a direct impact on Dunlap, whose last guaranteed appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last month. That decision cleared the way for an execution date to be set for Dunlap, who was convicted of killing four people in 1993 at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.
Also from Colorado, Bloomberg reports, "Accused Movie Shooter May Face Exam If He Pleads Insanity." It's written by Joel Rosenblatt & Jeff Kass.
James Holmes, the accused Colorado movie theater shooting suspect who might face the death penalty if convicted, may be the first such defendant to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s insanity defense laws.
Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester in Centennial, Colorado, said yesterday in an order advising Holmes that, if he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity at his arraignment today, he would be required to submit to a mental examination. Sylvester also said that he would set a trial date after getting the report.
A trial would probably be delayed by challenges by Holmes’s lawyers to Colorado laws allowing prosecutors to conduct interviews while a defendant is under the influence of a so-called truth serum, said Karen Steinhauser, a former Denver prosecutor now in private practice. Defense lawyers have also challenged a provision of the law blocking Holmes from calling witnesses to present evidence about his mental condition if he doesn’t cooperate with court-appointed psychiatrists, she said.
Sylvester previously decided that the constitutional challenges to the law aren’t before the court now and declined to rule on them. Still, those issues are likely to be litigated if prosecutors seek the death penalty, Steinhauser said.
“We have not had an insanity plea in a case in which the death penalty has been sought,” Steinhauser said. Prosecutors have 63 days from today’s arraignment to decide whether they’ll seek the death penalty, she said.
“Once that decision is made, I think the defense will ask for reconsideration of the issues that were raised in their original motions pertaining to the death penalty sentencing phase,” she said.
Earlier coverage from Colorado begins at the link.