For a decade, Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly have been trying to repeal the death penalty, and it looks like they may actually do it this year. For the first time in a generation, Democrats control both houses of the legislature and have a governor who will sign a repeal.
An actual repeal could turn out to be a moot point right now, as former Governor Hickenlooper instituted a de facto moratorium on the death penalty with his indefinite suspension of the punishment for the Chuck-e-Cheese killer, Nathan Dunlap. This injunction has not been lifted by the new governor, who is on the record in favor of repealing the death penalty. Most Americans are in favor of the death penalty, and that percentage is only growing – now at 61% according to a recent Rasmussen study.
The bill calls the death penalty in Colorado “failed public policy inconsistent with the evolving standards of decency” that should be replaced by life sentences. The logic behind this reasoning asserts that the death penalty is expensive to enforce, risks taking an innocent life, biased against minorities, and – for all you middle schoolers out there – everyone else is doing it. In this case, 19 other states do not allow execution.
Interestingly, the bill carves out existing death penalty cases, and death penalty legal actions brought about before July 1, 2019. The result of which enables the few current death penalty cases to continue their march towards justice, and does not change the status of the three people currently on death row in Colorado. It would not surprise us if all existing death sentences are commuted to live sentences if this measure becomes law.
Obviously this takes a critical tool out of the hands of law enforcement, but Democrats have never pretended to support law enforcement and the decent people who stand by our first responders anyway. The possibility of the death penalty allows serious crimes to be plea bargained down to a lesser charge, avoiding both the financial expense of a trial and the emotional toll of a family forced to relive their darkest moments.
This one will not be a party line vote jammed down by the new Democrat majority. Both Rhonda Fields and Tom Sullivan, who lost their children to murder, are understandably against repealing the death penalty. That likely will not be enough to stop the passage of this repeal.
And, does it matter anyway if the Governor will simply subvert the will of the people regardless of the legality of the death penalty?