Alan at Westword brings us another story about Carol Chambers. The death penalty in Colorado is a farce and should just be eliminated. The millions of dollars that are spent could easily be transferred into programs and treatment options for people. Alternatives to incarceration are available and they work. Rehabilitative programs and job opportunities would come to life with the influx of those funds. Thank you Alan for your investigative work.
Westword: The State of Colorado has managed to execute one murderer in the past forty years. Its death row, current population one, is among the smallest in the country. For four years after a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision threw out the state's system of having three judges decide whether an inmate should be executed, not a single new capital case was filed.
Some prosecutors regard the pursuit of the death penalty in the Centennial State as an exercise in futility. Even for the most heinous crimes, they say, it's difficult to get juries to impose the ultimate sentence — and then the appeals process can drag on for a decade or more, with taxpayers shelling out millions to fund both sides of the court battle. A recent memo to Governor Bill Ritter from the Colorado Attorney General's Office says it's not unusual for the defense in a death-penalty case to file between 300 and 400 motions, all of which must be answered by the prosecution. There are district attorneys who would rather undergo a colonoscopy with a garden hose than face such a gauntlet of budget-busting paperwork and frustration.
Then there's Carol Chambers, the maverick district attorney of the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. Her office is pursuing six of the seven capital murder cases now under way in Colorado. The crusade has drawn heat from death-penalty opponents, but it's also attracting scrutiny from the state legislature.
Using a 130-year-old statute that requires the Colorado Department of Corrections to reimburse counties for prosecuting crimes committed inside state prisons, Chambers has found an unusual way to pay for half of her death-penalty cases. She's billed the DOC hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months, effectively shifting the cost of trying to execute three inmates from her county-funded budget to Colorado coffers. The tactic has forced prison officials to go to state lawmakers, seeking a special fund for "payments to district attorneys," and raised questions about whether Chambers can bill the state for the entire salaries of employees in her office, including a chief deputy making $131,000 a year.
"Carol Chambers has turned her death machine into a cash cow," says attorney David Lane, an inveterate death-penalty opponent who is representing one of the prisoners facing possible execution. "I've never seen a capital case go this way. The only explanation I can see is that it's a big moneymaker for her office. Killing people is big business for them."