Capital punishment in Colorado
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), but since 1977 executed only one prisoner, and may thus be considered as de facto abolitionist since 11 October 2007.
The death penalty was reinstated in Colorado on January 1, 1975. 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.
Kennedy v. Louisiana invalidated the following statutes:
Sentencing and Death Row
- Nathan Dunlap, convicted and sentenced to death for murdering four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1996.
- 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.
- 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. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against James Eagan Holmes, the alleged gunman in the 2012 Aurora shooting.
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.”
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.
Method of executions
Executions since 1977
Only one person has been executed by the state of Colorado after the reintroduction of capital punishment.
|#||Name||Date of Execution||Victim||Method||Under Governor|
|1||Gary Lee Davis||October 13, 1997||Virginia May||Lethal injection||Roy R. Romer|
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.
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.
- Death Penalty Information Center
- Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
- Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)
- Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty
- Aggravating Factors For Capital Punishment By State
- Include perjury causing the execution of an innocent
- C.R.S. 18-3-301
- C.R.S. 18-8-206
- Prosecution pushes death penalty for Colorado theater shooting suspect
- Methods of Execution
- Regional Studies Central