"Death penalty debate focuses on Colo. governor's view of flawed system," is by Karen Augé in today's Denver Post.
As an obviously distraught Gov. John Hickenlooper explained his decision to spare the life of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap, he called the state's death-penalty system imperfect and flawed.
"If the state of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado's system for capital punishment is not flawless," he wrote in his executive order Wednesday.
After hearing a firestorm of commentary from all sides, Hickenlooper said Thursday none of his own choices were flawless, either.
"There's no perfect decision here," he said, while traveling outside of the metro area.
People need to learn as he did, Hickenlooper said, that the death penalty is meted out unfairly, that it has no deterrent effect on crime, and that even victims' families don't find closure after the punishment.The search for a perfection was just one facet of the announcement that death-penalty supporters and the governor's political opponents pounced on.
Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll writes, "Gov. Hickenlooper settles nothing on Dunlap, death penalty."
Hickenlooper told 7News' Mike Landess that he supported repeal of the death penalty but meanwhile insisted it "ought to be raised with the people of Colorado and not just their elected representatives." If the people demonstrate "they are moving away from [the death penalty], like the citizens of many states, then that's the only time it will change."
Really? So those of us who oppose the death penalty must wait for a public clamor for repeal even though we have a governor who considers it immoral and describes state law as deeply flawed — not to mention a majority in the legislature who may well agree?
How will we know when the clamor is underway? What will be the signs?
He says people aren't aware of the death penalty's inequities, aren't aware that deterrence is a myth disproven by social science, aren't aware that innocent people have been sentenced to die in other states. The geologist in him strides forth and suggests that facts will prevail and consensus gain ground in a debate whose judgments are fundamentally, and inevitably, personal and moral.
I'm glad Hickenlooper didn't let the despicable Dunlap die in August. Yet this was a year when the governor probably could have settled everything regarding Colorado's almost-never-used death penalty and instead he has settled nothing, not even Dunlap's fate. He chose an off ramp to limbo and then hit the brakes so the rest of us can finish our "conversation" — you know, the one that's been going on in this country since all of us were kids.
"Executive clemency is an essential part of Colorado’s legal process," is a Denver Post OpEd written by H. Patrick Furman, a clinical professor of law, emeritus, at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper weighs whether to commute the death sentence of Nathan Dunlap to life in prison without the possibility of parole, there has been some discussion about the nature of executive clemency itself.
Specifically, there have been suggestions that the governor’s commutation power is either a) unusual or b) represents an attack on the jury’s verdict. As a law professor who teaches students about the criminal justice process, I think it’s important for the public to be clear that neither argument is accurate. Executive clemency is an essential and routinely used part of our justice system.
The governor has had the power to commute sentences since Colorado became a state. The power is set out in Article IV, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution. The power to commute sentences exists in every state, although some states give the power to a commutation board or other authority. In the federal system, the U. S. Constitution grants the president the power to grant reprieves and pardons. It is a power that exists throughout our nation and it is a power that, far from being unusual, is exercised regularly.
Here in Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter, a career prosecutor, issued some 29 pardons and commutations. His predecessor, Bill Owens, a relatively conservative Republican, granted 14 pardons and commutations during his time in office. Again, executive clemency is not unusual.
Westword posts, "Nathan Dunlap or number 89148: Was Hickenlooper right not to use killer's name?" It's by Melanie Asmar.
When Governor John Hickenlooper announced yesterday that he's offering a reprieve to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted in 1996 of killing four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, he never uttered Dunlap's name. Instead, he chose to call him "offender number 89148," reasoning that he'd already gotten enough notoriety for his terrible acts.
Earlier coverage of Nathan Dunlap's reprieve begins at the link.