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Abolition of the Death Penalty: A Tough Road ahead for India

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The movement against the death penalty in present-day India faces a tremendous challenge in terms of extensive public clamour for swift executions, removal of appeals, and even support for summary executions. 
With the imminent execution of the four convicts in the Delhi gang rape and murder case against the background of reactions to incidents in Hyderabad, Kathua and Unnao, harsher punishments are receiving tremendous public support, and politicians are only happy to oblige. The Supreme Court has issued administrative orders (1) to hear death sentence cases faster amidst misplaced concerns in the public that death row prisoners have too many loopholes in the law to exploit.
Framing the death penalty as a political–legal issue in India is not easy. Located within the wider spectrum of social and state violence in India, the exceptional nature of the cruelty of the death penalty is difficult to establish. 
The suffering inflicted by the death penalty is the constant and daily uncerta…

Governor signs bill abolishing capital punishment in Colorado, commutes sentences of state’s 3 death row inmates

Colorado becomes the 22nd state to end the use of capital punishment

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill abolishing Colorado’s death penalty, simultaneously commuting the sentences of the three men on the state’s death row.

Polis converted the death sentences of the men — Nathan Dunlap, Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens — to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Polis’ signing of Senate Bill 100 makes Colorado the 22nd state to eliminate capital punishment.

“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender. That is not why I am commuting these sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Polis said in a written statement. “Rather, the commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the state of Colorado, and consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the state of Colorado.”

Polis added: “While I understand that some victims agree with my decision and others disagree, I hope this decision provides clarity and certainty for them moving forward. The decision to commute these sentences was made to reflect what is now Colorado law, and done after a thorough outreach process to the victims and their families.

Polis signed the death penalty repeal measure in private, given the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Monday was the deadline by which he had to either sign the measure, veto it or send it to the Colorado secretary of state to become law without his signature.

The bill took an unusually long time to be sent to Polis. Legislative leadership said they held onto the measure to give the governor enough time to talk to victims’ families before signing the measure, which he has said since last year that he would do.

“There are a lot of people reaching out to the governor right now,” House Speaker KC Becker said March 9 of the delay.

The legislation passed the Colorado General Assembly last month with bipartisan support, but opposition to the bill — while not enough to stop its passage — was both fierce and emotional.

Two Democrats, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Rep. Tom Sullivan, vehemently opposed the repeal. Fields’ son and his fiancée were killed by Ray and Owens.

Sullivan’s son was murdered during the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to sentence the gunman to death.

The death row inmates’ crimes


Dunlap murdered four people in 1993 at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant where he worked. Appeals in his case were resolved in 2013 and he was slated to die by lethal injection before former Gov. John Hickenlooper granted him an indefinite reprieve on May 22, 2013.

The cases of Ray and Owens are still going through the appellate process. They were sentenced to die for their roles in killing Javad Marshall Fields and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe, in 2005. 

Javad Marshall Fields was a witness to another fatal shooting and was targeted because he was set to testify in that case. 

Polis didn’t have to commute the sentences of the death row inmates. Senate Bill 100 is not retroactive and thus doesn’t affect their cases.

He suggested last year that he would commute their sentences if the legislature sent him a bill repealing the death penalty.

But recently, Polis had said the cases are not ripe for review because he hasn’t received clemency requests for Dunlap, Ray and Owens. He also said he would weigh each case on its individual merits.

Polis, however, had the power to remove their death penalty sentences at any time.

The last person Colorado put to death was Gary Lee Davis, who was executed in 1997 for kidnapping, raping and murdering a woman in Adams County. 

Prosecutors in Arapahoe, Denver and El Paso counties have in recent years sought capital punishment in a handful of cases, but juries rejected their efforts. Not since June 2009, when Ray was sentenced, has a Colorado jury signed off on death.

There are multiple pending death penalty cases and potential death penalty cases in Colorado, including against admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. and Dreion Dearing, who is accused of fatally shooting Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm.

Those cases can still continue because Senate Bill 100 makes defendants ineligible for capital punishment only if they are charged on or after July 1, 2020.

It’s not clear how or if Polis’ decision to commute the sentences of Ray, Owens or Dunlap would affect those cases.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Source: coloradosun.com, Jesse Paul, March 23, 2020


Colorado abolishes the death penalty


Colorado's death chamber
"The death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis said after outlawing capital punishment.

Colorado abolished the death penalty Monday, making it the 22nd state to do away with capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1976.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill banning the ultimate punishment, SB20-100, and commuted the death sentences of three "despicable and guilty individuals" in hopes of "moving forward."

“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender. That is not why I am commuting these sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Polis said in a prepared statement.

"Rather, the commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the State of Colorado, and consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado."

The actions by Polis means that now-former death row inmates Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens and Nathan Dunlap will spend the rest of their lives behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Ray was convicted of arranging the 2005 murders of two witnesses to another murder. Those slain witnesses were Javad Marshall-Fields, 22, the son of state Sen. Rhonda Fields, and his fiancee.

Polis commuted "capital punishment sentences of those who killed my son and bride to be," Fields said in statement. "In a stroke of a pen Gov. Polis hijacks justice and undermines our criminal justice system."

The governor said he knows his decision won't be popular among all Coloradans.

“While I understand that some victims agree with my decision and others disagree, I hope this decision provides clarity and certainty for them moving forward," he said.

"The decision to commute these sentences was made to reflect what is now Colorado law, and done after a thorough outreach process to the victims and their families."

Udi Ofer, deputy national political director of the ACLU, celebrated how Colorado "will no longer kill people as punishment."

"In all the madness we are living under, here is some terrific news. Colorado has now officially abolished the death penalty," Ofer said in statement.

A Gallup poll in October showed that 56 percent of respondents favored it and 42 percent were opposed — that highest level of opposition since the death penalty was re-established.

Even though capital punishment had been the law in Colorado, the state has ranked at the very bottom of its use.

Colorado's last execution was in 1997, whenGary Lee Davis was given a lethal injection for kidnapping and murdering a 33-year-old woman.

"Colorado’s action exemplifies the trend we are seeing in states across the country, which is a continuing movement away from capital punishment, first in practice, then in law," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a clearinghouse on capital punishment data.

"That is not a surprise. Public support for capital punishment has been thinning and is near a generation low. America’s views of criminal justice have experienced a sea change, and in state legislatures, the issue has become increasingly bipartisan."

Capital punishment had been briefly set aside nationally in the 1970s, then reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976.

There have been 1,517 executions by states and the federal government since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Source: nbcnews.com, David K. Li, March 24, 2020


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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