Colorado Abolishes Death Penalty and Commutes Sentences of Death Row Inmates
Colorado abolished its seldom-used death penalty on Monday, joining a growing number of states that have eschewed capital punishment as a deterrent to the most serious crimes.
Gov. Jared S. Polis, a Democrat, signed the repeal into law after it had reached his desk from the state legislature. It had passed the Senate in January and the House in February after several failed attempts to end capital punishment in the state.
Colorado had executed just one person since reinstating the death penalty in the mid-1970s: Gary Davis, who had been convicted of the rape and murder of Virginia May, was given a lethal injection in 1997.
On Monday, Mr. Polis also commuted the sentences of three men on death row — Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens and Nathan Dunlap — to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He said in a statement that he wanted the law to be applied consistently.
“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender,” Mr. Polis said, noting that this was not the reason he was commuting the three sentences.
“Rather, the commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the state of Colorado,” he said, “and consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the state of Colorado.”
Colorado joined 21 other states that have repealed the death penalty, according to the advocacy group Equal Justice USA, which had campaigned for the end of capital punishment in the state. The organization mounted similar efforts in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Illinois, which have all abolished the death penalty.
Shari Silberstein, the group’s executive director, said in a statement that it was a proud moment for Colorado.
George Brauchler, a Republican district attorney in Colorado, criticized the repeal in a statement on Monday.
“There are a few in Colorado today who will cheer the sparing of the lives of these coldblooded murderers,” he said. “For the rest of Colorado, make no mistake: We will save no money. We are not safer. We are not a better people. And the only lives spared are those who commit the ultimate acts of evil against us.”
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