Gov. John Hickenlooper's decision Wednesday to spare the life of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap was admirable, no matter how messy and perhaps temporary that decision was.
From our perspective, it wasn't ideal because the executive order granting a temporary reprieve can be undone by a future governor. But it gives Coloradans a chance to have a broader conversation about the effectiveness and justness of the death penalty. And we think that's a discussion the governor, by virtue of his actions, has an obligation to lead.
The rapidly approaching August execution date for Dunlap, who murdered four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993, forced the governor to examine the death penalty and its application in Colorado in minute detail.
It was a process of immersion, Hickenlooper told us, and his staff went to great lengths to research the issue.
He came to the conclusion, as this editorial board has, that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime and its application is inconsistent.
Salon posts, "Hickenlooper strikes major blow to death penalty," by David Sirota.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is known for a lot of things – his cheery nature, his loyalty to his oil and gas donors – but he is not known for being a particularly courageous conviction politician. After all, much of the high-profile change that has happened in Colorado has come not from his strong leadership, but from the Democratic-controlled legislature forcing his hand.
But in a stunning announcement today, Hickenlooper displayed a burst of genuine courage rarely seen anywhere in politics, much less in Colorado’s ultra-cautious Democratic Party culture. Facing the decision of whether to execute convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap for his role in 1993′s infamous Chuck E. Cheese killings, Hickenlooper used a temporary reprieve order for Dunlap to raise huge questions surrounding the death penalty itself.
Specifically, unlike the few pro-death-penalty-reform governors from other states who have cited fears that the capital punishment may be executing wrongly convicted citizens, Hickenlooper halted the Dunlap execution by making a larger critique of the entire capital punishment system. Saying the “question is about the use of the death penalty itself, and not about (Dunlap),” the governor cited “information that exposes an inequitable system” to argue more broadly that “it is a legitimate question whether we as a state should be taking lives.”
Andrew Cohen posts, "On Death Penalty, Colorado Governor Buys Himself Some Time," at the Atlantic.
Faced with a life or death choice over the fate of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper decided instead Wednesday afternoon to buy himself, and the condemned man, more time. Infuriating some family members of the victims of Dunlap's 1993 crimes, and delaying a substantive decision on the fate of the state's beleaguered capital punishment regime, the governor issued a "temporary reprieve" indefinitely blocking Dunlap's scheduled August execution until further notice, the Denver Post reported.
That "further notice" may never come, at least from this governor. At a dramatic press conference held immediately after the reprieve was announced, Gov. Hickenlooper said it "is highly unlikely that I will revisit" the order. Dunlap's attorneys immediately praised what they called the governor's "well-reasoned decision." The prosecutor in the case quickly suggested that the reprieve was motivated by the governor's political ambitions in 2014.
The Denver Post has extensive coverage. "Hickenlooper accused of trying to have it both ways with death penalty," is by Lynn Bartels.
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday stunned Colorado by indefinitely delaying the execution of a death-row inmate, a decision that didn't give any outright victories to either side of the death-penalty debate and set the Democrat up for accusations of trying to have it both ways.
If Nathan Dunlap remains in prison as long as Hickenlooper is governor, a future governor could allow the death sentence to proceed.
A Republican lawmaker called the decision "gutless." The father of one of the victims called the governor a "chicken." Even a Democratic district attorney who called the decision "thoughtful" said he would have preferred Hickenlooper commute Dunlap's sentence to life in prison.
"I think that Hickenlooper's gift is to try to find that sweet spot in between two polar positions, but I'm not convinced that this was a decision that lent itself to that approach," said Denver political consultant Eric Sondermann. "I think he runs the risk of seeming too cute by half and of really leaving both sides feeling unfulfilled."Republicans vowed to make the reprieve an issue in Hickenlooper's 2014 re-election bid.
"Nathan Dunlap victims' families express outrage, resolve over reprieve," is continuing Post coverage by Ryan Parker, Kurtis Lee and Lynn Bartels.
Reactions from the families of those slain during the Chuck E. Cheese's killings were as intense as they were different after Gov. John Hickenlooper announced he would halt the execution of Nathan Dunlap.
"Colorado AG criticizes Gov. Hickenlooper over death penalty decision," is by Lynn Bartels at the Post's the Spot blog.
Suthers, a former district attorney, doesn’t usually criticize the other constitutional officers, but he clearly was upset.
“I have an excellent working relationship with the governor and I respect him very much,” Suthers said, in his comments. “Yet it’s been apparent to me that issues of crime and punishment are not his strength. John Hickenlooper is an optimist. He has proven to be uncomfortable confronting the perpetrators of evil in our society.”Suthers is a Republican, Hickenlooper a Democrat.
"Boulder DA, legislator support reprieve for convicted killer Nathan Dunlap," is by Mitchell Byars for the Boulder Daily Camera.
Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett and Boulder Rep. Claire Levy applauded the decision Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper to grant convicted killer Nathan Dunlap a "temporary reprieve" from an execution and expressed hope it would help spark a conversation about repealing the death penalty in Colorado altogether.
Hickenlooper did not grant Dunlap the full clemency Dunlap's attorney had asked for, but did sign an executive order granting him a reprieve, meaning Dunlap will not be executed unless Hickenlooper or a future governor lifts it.
Dunlap was convicted in 1996 of fatally shooting four people and wounding a fifth in an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's on Dec. 14, 1993. He had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Aug. 13.
While the reprieve did not sit well with many officials -- Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Arapahoe DA George Brauchler among them -- Garnett and Levy both said they agreed with the decision.
Garnett -- who has said previously he believes the death penalty is impractical from a prosecution standpoint and would like to see it repealed in Colorado -- would have preferred outright clemency, but said Hickenlooper made a "courageous decision."
"Nathan Dunlap Reprieve: Hickenlooper's Decision To Block Execution Sharply Criticized," is the updated AP filing by Dan Elliott, via Huffington Post.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's decision to block the execution of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap for as long as he is governor infuriated victims' relatives and drew quick criticism from Republicans ahead of the 2014 election.
Hickenlooper on Wednesday granted an indefinite reprieve to Dunlap, who is on death row for the ambush slayings of four people – three teenagers and a 50-year-old mother – in an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993.
AP also posts, "Republican former US Rep. Tom Tancredo running for Colorado governor." via the Republic.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo has become the latest Republican to announce plans to challenge Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Tancredo said Thursday on radio station KHOW the last straw was a decision by Hickenlooper to delay the execution of convicted murderer of Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people in 1993. Tancredo said he is also upset with Hickenlooper's approval of sweeping gun legislation this year, including a law limiting the size of ammunition magazines.
"I'm going to run for governor for the state of Colorado, and I'm going to do it this time as a Republican," Tancredo said Thursday.
Hickenlooper cruised to victory in 2010 after the Republican side of the ticket imploded. Tea party favorite Dan Maes won the party nomination when a better-funded candidate, former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, was accused of plagiarism. Tancredo then declared Maes unelectable and briefly left the party to run as a third-party candidate.
"Colorado governor grants reprieve to quadruple killer on death row," is Reuters' coverage by Keith Coffman.
It was unclear what effect, if any, the reprieve would have on two more inmates now on Colorado's death row, or on other cases in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, including that of accused movie theater gunman James Holmes.
Legal analysts called the reprieve a victory for death penalty foes because it cast further doubt on the future of capital punishment in a state that has executed just one inmate in 46 years.
The Denver Post has also posted video:
- Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper grants Nathan Dunlap “temporary reprieve”
- Phil Cherner, Nathan Dunlap attorney, grateful for client’s temporary reprieve
- DA George Brauchler expresses outrage at Gov. Hickenlooper’s decision on Nathan Dunlap
Earlier coverage of Nathan Dunlap's repreive begins at the link.