Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Colorado: Death-penalty foes turn up heat on Gov. Hickenlooper

Colorado Death Chamber
Colorado Death Chamber
Attorneys for Colorado death-row inmate Nathan Dunlap are working on a clemency petition in the hopes of persuading Gov. John Hickenlooper to spare the killer's life.

Records show, however, that the petition will not be the first outreach by Dunlap's attorneys to the governor's office. E-mails provided to The Denver Post as part of an open-records request reveal that Dunlap's attorneys have been in regular contact with members of Hickenlooper's legal team.

The messages are mostly brief notes alerting Hickenlooper's lawyers to new developments on death-penalty policies around the country or reports on capital punishment in Colorado. But they speak to a larger, quiet effort to change Hickenlooper's mind on the death penalty, amid signs that the governor's position has recently wavered.

That effort will gain more attention when a bill to repeal capital punishment is introduced in the legislature as soon as this week. For a man in charge of a state that hasn't executed anyone in 15 years, Hickenlooper will soon have two big decisions to make on the death penalty.

"I think they're listening. They're always listening," Lisa Cisneros, the executive director of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said of the governor's office. "But I don't know where they're leaning on it."

Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat expected to be one of the bill's sponsors, said the bill would repeal the death penalty as a sentencing option on future crimes. For murders committed after the bill becomes law, the highest punishment would be life in prison without parole.

The bill would not affect current murder cases, such as the one against Aurora theater-shooting suspect James Holmes. It also would not have a direct impact on Dunlap, whose last guaranteed appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last month. That decision cleared the way for an execution date to be set for Dunlap, who was convicted of killing four people in 1993 at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.

Levy said she has not received any indication as to whether Hickenlooper will support her bill.


Source: The Denver Post, March 12, 2013