Death Penalty | KUNC

Death Penalty

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in Colorado.

The governor also announced Monday he has commuted the sentences of three men currently on death row to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors will not pursue the death penalty against the older of the two teens charged in a shooting at a suburban Denver school that killed a student.

In a court filing on Thursday, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler did not explain the decision not to seek capital punishment for the 19-year-old defendant. Brauchler said that the parents of Kendrick Castillo, who was killed in the May 7, 2019, shooting, supported capital punishment.

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage

The Colorado legislature has passed a bill to repeal the death penalty. The decision comes after several days of emotional debates that put the spotlight on lawmakers' religious beliefs and their experiences of losing loved ones to gun violence and murder.

The final approval on Wednesday came despite opposition from some leading Democrats, including Sen. Rhonda Fields, whose son was killed by two of the three men currently on Colorado's death row.

Scott Franz

Colorado Democrats have tabled their effort to repeal the death penalty after some members of their own party expressed concerns about the bill.

The proposal was stuck in limbo for more than two weeks as State Sen. Angela Williams tried to secure the votes the bill needed to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 19-16 majority.

John Hickenlooper
Mike Steffen / USDA

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says he would suspend the federal death penalty if elected president.

Hickenlooper, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, made the pledge during a CNN town hall Wednesday night.

The death penalty, and whether to repeal it, is likely to be one of the weightiest topics Colorado's legislature will debate this session and advocates believe this is the best chance they've had in years to abolish it. It's on the legislative agenda across the country and California's Gov. Gavin Newsom last week put a moratorium on the death penalty.

Democrats, who are pushing for the repeal, hold the majority in the Colorado statehouse.

Senate Republicans
Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Colorado Republicans hoping to delay the passage of bills to repeal the death penalty and overhaul oil and gas regulations have demanded that an unrelated 2,000-page bill be read aloud in the Senate.

The Denver Post reports that GOP state Sen. John Cooke invoked a rule Monday allowing lawmakers to demand a bill be read, delaying other action. Cooke says it was the only option minority Republicans had.

When Colorado's 2016 legislative session convenes Jan. 13, Democrats will have a one-seat minority in the state Senate. They'll also have a new minority leader for the upcoming session, Lucia Guzman of Denver.

James Holmes will get life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The jurors who convicted him of murdering a dozen people and trying to kill 70 more at a midnight movie three years ago could not agree on a death sentence.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for less than seven hours over two days.

District Attorney George Brauchler, who had sought to have Holmes executed, said, "I still think death is justice for what that guy did ... but I respect the outcome." He also said the jury did "a hell of a job."

Jurors in the trial of Aurora Theater shooter James Holmes did not come to a unanimous final sentencing decision. As a result, the court will impose the sentence of life in prison for Holmes' killing of 12 and injuring of 70 others in 2012. Even though he was spared the death penalty, the trial is likely to once again spark debate over whether Colorado should even have the penalty on the books.

The last attempt to repeal the state's death penalty was in 2013. It was backed by former Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder).

"I think it's immoral, it's ineffective. I think it doesn't belong in a modern system of justice. I don't think we impose it in a fair impartial way," said Levy. "People don't get executed. They sit waiting the outcome for decades."

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