Outrage is the only way to describe the reaction of many of Colorado’s leaders today over Governor Hickenlooper’s cowardly decision to issue a reprieve to mass murderer Nathan Dunlap via executive order.
From victims’ families to the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police to the District Attorney charged with convicting the Aurora shooter, many people involved in the Dunlap case were furious with Hickenlooper’s half-assed decision.
Below is a round-up of initial reaction:
District Attorney George Brauchler and Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (rumored to be looking at running for Attorney General in 2014)
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) May 22, 2013
“This is shrugging….this is not justice.” DA Brauchler
— jeremyjojola (@jeremyjojola) May 22, 2013
“Not making a decision is an injustice,” Brauchler said.
— Jordan Steffen (@jsteffendp) May 22, 2013
Possible 2014 Gubernatorial candidate and current State Senator Greg Brophy
— SenatorBrophy (@SenatorBrophy) May 22, 2013
Even the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police had some choice words for Hick
Hick Delays Dunlap’s Execution-Pathetic. Failure to do whats right. Political mistake. Insult to victims & families. cbsloc.al/10lCCOW
— Colorado FOP (@ColoradoFOP) May 22, 2013
Thanks Guv. Nothing like bringing comfort to a murderer & putting a smile on his face while causing pain & anguish for the victims’ families
— Colorado FOP (@ColoradoFOP) May 22, 2013
Bob Crowell, the father of Sylvia Crowell, who was murdered by Dunlap, is furious as well:
“The knife that’s been in my back for 20 years was just twisted by thegovernor,” Bob Crowell, quite upset with Hick decision.#copolitics
— Kurtis Lee (@kurtisalee) May 22, 2013
The way in which Hickenlooper made his decision caused almost as much backlash as the decision itself:
. @hickforco I wouldve disagreed w but respected decision by you to commute mass murderers sentence. I cant respect your decision to punt.
— Frank McNulty (@RepMcNulty) May 22, 2013
Even Democratic operatives didn’t hold back their thoughts:
— Brendan Burns (@guyfromcolorado) May 22, 2013
UPDATE: Attorney General John Suthers, officially Governor Hickenlooper’s lawyer, absolutely gutted the Guv in a press release:
“It’s been my observation over many years that the extraordinary powers we give the president and our state governors is the one place in the criminal justice system where personal philosophy can trump the rule of law. And make no mistake about it — that is exactly what has happened in the case of People v. Nathan Dunlap. This is a horrible crime in which four wholly-innocent people were brutally murdered. The defendant was eligible for the death penalty under Colorado law. The district attorney believed the defendant deserved the death penalty. A jury of twelve citizens of Colorado determined that he deserved the death penalty. And a plethora of appellate courts have upheld the jury’s decision. But Governor Hickenlooper simply cannot cope with the task of carrying out the execution of Nathan Dunlap or exercising his constitutional mandate.
Executive authority to modify criminal punishment is part of our constitutional system, and I respect that. However, the citizens of Colorado deserve honesty and the victims deserve finality. I believe the governor’s decision does not stem from anything but his personal discomfort about the death penalty. I also believe that the governor should have been much more up front with the voters when he ran for office if he couldn’t carry out the death penalty.
I have an excellent working relationship with the governor and I respect him very much. 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. I saw this when I discussed last year’s juvenile direct-file bill with him. He had trouble comprehending that a 16 or 17-year-old is capable of brutal acts deserves adult punishment. I saw it in his naïve views about the role of administrative segregation in our prisons. And I’ve heard it in my discussions with him about the death penalty. The governor is certainly entitled to these views, but granting a reprieve simply means that his successor will have to make the touch choice that he cannot.
Fifty-year-old Marge Kohlberg, 19-year-old Sylvia Crowell, 17-year-old Ben Grant, and 17-year-old Colleen O’Connor all died at Nathan Dunlap’s hand. Bobby Stevens was shot and left for dead. They were the victims in this case and Mr. Dunlap made sure that their voices could not be heard.
The governor, by refusing to make any hard decisions today — whether in carrying out Dunlap’s sentence or conclusively granting clemency — has only guaranteed suffering and delayed justice for the victims’ loved ones for years to come.”
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UPDATE 2: Rep. Mark Waller, current House Minority Leader and rumored 2014 AG candidate, also lays into the Guv in a statement:
“I am incredibly disappointed with the Governor’s decision to grant a temporary reprieve to Nathan Dunlap. It’s a failure in leadership that is illustrative of the Governor’s unwillingness to make the difficult decisions Coloradans expect him to make.
“Time and time again, the courts have upheld Dunlap’s conviction and sentencing by a jury of Coloradans. Voters in Colorado have already spoken on this issue, and they expressed their support of capital punishment as an appropriate sentencing option in Colorado.
“The Governor’s executive order strips victims and their families of the justice they deserve. For twenty years, victims’ families have worked within our legal system to see justice delivered. The Governor’s reprieve does a disservice not only to the victims’ families, but also to the jurors who convicted Dunlap and to the people of Colorado.”