Capital punishment in Colorado

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Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. state of Colorado.

Colorado was the last state to perform an execution in the pre-Furman period (1967),[1] but since 1977 executed only one prisoner, and may thus be considered as de facto abolitionist since 11 October 2007.

Current development[edit]

The death penalty was reinstated in Colorado on January 1, 1975.[2] The previous death penalty statute was declared unconstitutional due to the United States Supreme Court Furman v. Georgia ruling in 1972, which found all states' death penalty statutes unconstitutional. In 1976, Colorado's new death penalty statutes were approved by the Supreme Court and Colorado was allowed to continue performing executions.

As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime [3] or mentally disabled[4] are constitutionally precluded from being executed.

Capital crimes[5][edit]

  • First-degree murder with at least 1 of 17 aggravating factors[6][7]
  • Treason

Kennedy v. Louisiana invalidated the following statutes:

Sentencing and Death Row[edit]

Suitability of the death sentence is determined by the jury. Life in prison is an option. Death row is located in Sterling Correctional Facility.
Currently there are three people awaiting execution:

  1. Nathan Dunlap, convicted and sentenced to death for murdering four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993.
  2. Sir Mario Owens, who was convicted and received a jury's death determination in 2008 for the murder of a young couple, Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe, both prosecution witnesses in a murder trial involving Owens.
  3. Robert Ray, who ordered the murders of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe while awaiting his own trial for murder.

Until 2011, death row was located in Cañon City Colo. That year, the ACLU raised an appeal about human conditions and all three were moved for more access to sunlight. All the murders listed above occurred in Aurora.[citation needed] Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against James Eagan Holmes, the alleged gunman in the 2012 Aurora shooting.[10]

Clemency[edit]

The Governor of Colorado has the sole right to pardon or commute the death sentence. As of 2011 no gubernatorial commutation of a living prisoner has been granted in Colorado.[11] The main reason for the death penalty is if the crime committed is labeled unconstitutional and unable to be reprimanded as a mass genocide such as the Aurora Shooting and the Waco Texas standoff. [12]

On January 7, 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter granted a full and unconditional posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy, who had been convicted and executed as an accomplice to a murder that occurred in 1936. The pardon came 72 years after Arridy’s execution and was the first such pardon in Colorado history. A press release from the governor's office stated, "[A]n overwhelming body of evidence indicates the 23-year-old Arridy was innocent, including false and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by someone else." The governor also pointed to Arridy's intellectual disabilities. He had an IQ of 46 and functioned like a toddler. The governor said, “Granting a posthumous pardon is an extraordinary remedy. But the tragic conviction of Mr. Arridy and his subsequent execution on Jan. 6, 1939, merit such relief based on the great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, and his severe mental disability at the time of his trial and execution. Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history. It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”[13]

On May 22, 2013, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said it was unlikely he would ever allow the execution of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap. Hickenlooper granted Dunlap an indefinite reprieve, citing doubts about the fairness of Colorado’s death penalty.[14]

Method of executions[edit]

Lethal injection is the sole method of execution in Colorado.[15]

Executions since 1977[edit]

Only one person has been executed by the state of Colorado after the reintroduction of capital punishment.

# Name Race Date of Execution Victim Method Under Governor
1 Gary Lee Davis White October 13, 1997 Virginia May Lethal injection Roy R. Romer

Current Attempts at Abolition[edit]

A big step towards abolition in recent years occurred in 2009 when a bill, that would have abolished the death penalty as an option in criminal cases, successfully made it through the Colorado House of Representatives but was halted in the state Senate when it failed to pass a vote that was held there. Besides ending the death penalty in the state of Colorado, the bill planned to use the funds normally dedicated to such trials and use them instead to help fund the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. This department focuses on solving cold cases. The funds would allow for additional staff members. [16]

Earlier history[edit]

In total, 101 people were executed in Colorado in the pre-Furman period (1859–1967). Eleven of these executions were prior to Statehood; 90 since. All were executed as punishment for murder and all were males.[17][18]

Hanging was the sole method of execution until it was replaced by the gas chamber in 1934. There were 69 hangings and 32 gassings.[17][18]

Luis Monge, gassed on June 2, 1967, was the last person put to death in Colorado prior to 1977.[1]

One other notable execution was the case of Jack Gilbert Graham on 11 January 1957 for killing 44 people by placing a bomb aboard United Airlines Flight 629.

Colorado is known for being the last state to make use of lethal gas prior to the 1972 Supreme Court decision that effectively abolished capital punishment in the United States. Colorado performed the last pre-Furman gassing in 1967. Oklahoma performed the last pre-Furman electrocution in 1966. Kansas performed the last pre-Furman hanging in 1965. Utah performed the last pre-Furman execution of a death sentence by firing squad in 1960 (and coincidentally, the first post-Furman execution by firing squad in 1977).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]