"Gov. Hickenlooper boxed in on Nathan Dunlap," is the latest from Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll.
We are used to impassioned rhetoric by those who oppose the death penalty. But George Brauchler, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District that includes Arapahoe County, and Matt Maillaro, his senior chief deputy who co-signed the letter to the governor, have no trouble mustering indignation of their own against those who would spare Nathan Dunlap, whose execution has been set for the week of Aug. 18.
Brauchler and Maillaro's 32-page rebuttal to Dunlap's plea for clemency is a tour de force of controlled but heated — and occasionally sarcastic — argument. And nowhere are they more effective than on racial bias.
I say that as someone who in February argued that the governor should commute Dunlap's sentence to life in prison without parole, which is what his attorneys officially requested this month. The death penalty in Colorado is rarely pursued and even more rarely achieved (exactly one execution since 1967), giving it a random, peculiar quality that mocks our commitment to equality before the law.
But racist is another matter.
Hickenlooper could of course base his commutation on the the theory that "Mr. Dunlap was not cold or cruel," as his lawyers argue. "He was sick. He was a teenager suffering from bipolar disorder and psychosis, in the grip of his first full-blown manic episode" — and the jury never knew it. Brauchler and Maillaro pour scorn on that claim, too, and maybe the governor can determine which side's experts are more credible.
And if not? Then our broken death-penalty system — the one the governor intervened to save — will stagger into action and execute someone for only the second time in 46 years.
Earlier coverage of Nathan Dunlap's case begins at the link.