Nathan Dunlap

Nathan Dunlap

Last week, we saw quite starkly the pain Gov. John Hickenlooper’s wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed ways have caused.  For 13 long, heavy minutes we see Dennis O’Connor, father of Colleen O’Connor, share with us the grief he has known and experienced every day since Nathan Dunlap executed his daughter over 20 years ago.

Now, others involved in the Dunlap case are coming forward as well, all to say Hick has let Colorado down when it comes to this matter.  In The Durango Herald, reporter Peter Marcus writes about a juror and a prosecutor stepping forward to call Hick out:

Enter [Steve] Cohen, who said the moral and judicial components of weighing a man’s life have rested heavily on his soul for 18 years. When he heard the governor was going to possibly grant a reprieve, or even clemency, Cohen wrote to Hickenlooper, pleading with him to bring closure by signing the order for death by lethal injection.

In a recent interview with The Durango Herald, Cohen said he is still enraged and perplexed by what he calls an “inaction” by Hickenlooper.

This guy has single-handedly ruined the judicial system as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t think he has the right,” Cohen said of Hickenlooper. “He wasn’t there to begin with.” [the Peak’s emphasis]

Lost in the larger story of Hick’s punting on the Dunlap decision, is Hick’s complete disregard (and, frankly, open condescension) for the 12 opinions of those who sat on the jury.  Nearly 20 years ago, while Hick was spending yet another day, month, year drinking it up at Wynkoop, 12 average Coloradans, who were thrust into one of the most difficult situations, agonized day and night trying to come to understand in a very real sense what does justice mean, and what does it demand of us.  Through those numberless hours of soul-searching, those 12 brave citizens decided the only appropriate justice for Dunlap was death.  By no means can anyone assume this heaviest of decisions came to them easily.  Yet, 20 years of beers later, Hick disregards them completely and substitutes Roxane White’s his own opinion over all 12 of theirs.

If that example of arrogance wasn’t enough, Hick’s actions on Dunlap seem to completely dismiss the hard work and harder judgment the prosecutor of the case, Eva Wilson, exercised in pursuing the death penalty.  As she told The Herald:

Hickenlooper has ignored the cries of the majority of victims’ families and diminished the exhausting work by jurors and prosecutors.

“It’s not a case of innocence. It’s not a case of anything else other than absolute guilt, and yet he decided to throw his hands up in the air and say, ‘Gee, I just don’t know,’” Wilson said. “I don’t think anyone gets to do that.” [the Peak’s emphasis]

Colorado deserves a leader who is more concerned about making the tough decisions than protecting his own self-made “brand.”