The Boulder Daily Camera publishes an editorial, "Clemency for Nathan Dunlap." It's written by Erika Stutzman for the Camera editorial board.
The Camera editorial board wants the governor to commute Dunlap's sentence to life in prison with no chance of parole.
We had hoped that Colorado would join a growing list of states that have repealed their death penalties. Dunlap still would be on death row if it had.
We have come to believe, however, that Dunlap is a good example of some of the very reasons we have pressed for Colorado to repeal the penalty. And for that reason, letting him die in prison -- but not through lethal injection -- is appropriate.
On Thursday, Maryland became the sixth state in just six years -- and the 18th state in the country -- to abolish the death penalty. These states have concluded that the death penalty is both capricious and racially biased.
"Defense: Colo man convicted of killing 4 in 1993 had bipolar disorder, should not be executed," is the AP report, via the Republic.
Lawyers for a man convicted of the 1993 ambush slayings of four people say he had undiagnosed bipolar disorder at the time and shouldn't be executed.
Nathan Dunlap's attorneys formally asked Gov. John Hickenlooper for clemency on Monday.
Hickenlooper hasn't said how he would respond to a request for clemency. He met Friday and Saturday with victims' family members and others to hear their views.
Advocates for Nathan Dunlap issued the news release, "Former Judges and Prosecutors, Faith Leaders, the NAACP, CO Latino Forum, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Academics and Others Call on Governor Hickenlooper to Commute Nathan Dunlap’s Death Sentence to Life In Prison Without the Possibility of Parole." Here's the text:
Citing racial bias, geographic concentration, and disproportionate usage in Colorado’s application of capital punishment, more than 20 former judges and prosecutors, faith leaders representing hundreds of Colorado congregations, the NAACP of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, the Colorado Latino Forum, the nation’s largest mental health advocacy organization, 75 academics from 6 Colorado universities, international voices and many others called today on Governor John Hickenlooper to commute Nathan Dunlap’s death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The letters supporting clemency from the hundreds of distinguished Coloradoans accompanied a clemency petition filed today by Mr. Dunlap’s attorneys with the Governor’s office. A number of prominent individuals have signed letters in support of clemency, including former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky, former Arapahoe County Deputy District Attorney Richard Bloch, Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, Rabbi Joseph Black of Temple Emanuel, Pastor Patrick L. Demmer of the Ministerial Alliance of Denver, Reverend Dr. Jim Ryan of the Colorado Council of Churches, which represents over 850 member congregations, and many others have reached out to the Governor to express support for clemency, including renowned human rights leader and recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“We… urge you to grant clemency because the death penalty in Colorado is deeply flawed,” states a letter to Governor Hickenlooper, signed by former judges. “These facts depict a system that acts in an arbitrary fashion, based on factors such as race and geography…..Assuming that the death penalty may sometimes be appropriate, there is no principled reason for it to be applied in the circumstances of this case.”
The clemency petition also includes affidavits by several of the jurors from Mr. Dunlap’s trial who now say that if they had all the information at trial, they may not have voted for death.
In December 1993, Mr. Dunlap committed a horrific crime, killing four people and seriously injuring another. As the letters in support of clemency make clear, Mr. Dunlap should serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, and should never experience freedom again. The widespread support for clemency in his case reflects a consensus that Colorado’s death penalty system is broken.
Many of the supporters for clemency express concern in their letters that the death penalty in Colorado is not used proportionally, and it is concentrated geographically and by the profile of the prisoner, with racial bias and a bias towards younger offenders. Mr. Dunlap’s case exemplifies this unjust system. In a state that is only 4.3% African American, Colorado’s death row is 100% African American. Of the 64 counties in the state of Colorado, only one county, Arapahoe, is responsible for all the current death sentences in the state. All three men on Colorado’s death row committed their crimes when they were under the age of 21. A recent study of every murder conviction in Colorado from 1999-2010 found that while the death penalty was an option in 92% of those cases, prosecutors chose to pursue the sentence through the sentencing phase in less than 1% of cases.
“It appears that race, geography and youth largely determines who gets the death penalty in Colorado,” states a letter from the Colorado-Montana-Wyoming State Conference of the NAACP. “This is wrong and it must end….The death penalty in America has long been administered in a racially biased manner. Since its inception, people of color have been disproportionately condemned to death…”
“The very emblematic symbol of justice is a lady blindfolded, holding scales of justice in her hands, which is designed to suggest that justice sees neither your race, creed, color, nor your social standing, but that in Colorado is obviously not true, unless we are to believe that only African-Americans are worthy of the death penalty,” wrote Pastor Patrick L. Demmer, former President of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and Senior Pastor of the Graham Memorial Community Church of God in Christ.
Colorado has executed only one person in the last 45 years. If Mr. Dunlap is executed during the week of August 18 - 24, 2013, he will be the first person put to death in Colorado since 1997. Supporters for clemency cite serious concerns over the proportionality of capital punishment in Colorado.
“The arbitrary application of Colorado’s death penalty makes Mr. Dunlap’s sentence unacceptable and antithetical to the rule of law,” state 75 Colorado university professors in their letter in support of clemency.
The clemency petition provides details of Mr. Dunlap’s history of mental illness, which was also noted as a cause of significant concern by many groups who support clemency, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest organization representing people with mental illness and their families.
Mr. Dunlap suffers from bipolar disorder, and his family has an extensive history of mental illness going back five generations, including his mother who also suffers from bipolar disorder. Since the Colorado Department of Corrections finally began treating Mr. Dunlap’s mental illness in 2006, his mental health has been stable and his behavior exemplary.
“…failure to present any evidence of Mr. Dunlap's serious mental illness or the role of that illness in his behavior clearly prevented the jury from fairly and accurately assessing his culpability. Indeed, the Colorado death penalty statute expressly provides that a defendant's mental state may be mitigating, even if his mental illness does not rise to level of legal insanity,” state former prosecutors from Colorado and around the country.
At trial, a unanimous decision by the jury was required to impose the death sentence. No information was presented about Mr. Dunlap’s mental health issues, despite the fact that he was likely experiencing a manic episode at the time of the crime. Mr. Dunlap was 19 years old at the time.
Notably, three jurors now say that if they had known about Mr. Dunlap’s mental illness, it may have affected their decisions. Under Colorado law, if only one of them had not voted for death, Mr. Dunlap would not face execution today.
“Executions harm society by mirroring and reinforcing existing injustice. The death penalty distracts us from our work towards a just society. It deforms our response to violence in the individual, familial, institutional, and systemic levels. It perpetuates cycles of violence,’” states Lutheran Bishop James Gonia, one of 65 Bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with over 4 million members. “Please be merciful and allow Nathan Dunlap to live out his natural life.”
A letter signed by 18 Rabbis adds, “As members of a religious minority whose history is replete with injustice under the law, we are deeply concerned about how the death penalty is applied in Colorado…. As Colorado and other states continue to wrestle with our nation’s legacy of racial injustice, our citizens must be assured that desire for justice and our faith are never at odds.”
In the words of Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, “I pray that we will be a just society…rather than resorting to the violence of execution.”
Governor Hickenlooper has the power to stop Mr. Dunlap’s execution and commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Earlier coverage of Nathan Dunlap's case begins at the link.