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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Death Penalty Not Easy

Few things in the justice system raise passions like the death penalty. District Attorney candidates state their stands during their campaigns, Web sites in the thousands have been launched, candlelight vigils are conducted, polls are taken, articles are written.

Colorado is one of 36 states that maintain a death penalty statute. Two men sit in the Colorado State Penitentiary awaiting execution. The state has executed one man since the penalty was reinstated nationally in 1976.

A bill that has been introduced in the State House — House Bill 1274 — would abolish the death penalty and move the money spent on it to fund the Colorado Bureau of Investigation cold case unit.

District Attorney Thom LeDoux said he opposes the bill, as do several other D.A.s in the state.

“I think it serves as a deterrent, there are some circumstances where it is appropriate,” LeDoux said.

While the death penalty raises ethical and religious issues for many people, the legal process of reaching the penalty, appealing and ultimately getting an execution is extremely complex.

“It’s like me explaining how to do brain surgery,” said Denver defense attorney David Lane, who has defended about 50 death penalty cases.

Capital punishment has a long history in Colorado. Noverto Griego was the first person executed in the state in 1890.

According to the Colorado Department of Corrections Web site, executions were performed by hanging until 1933 and then by the gas chamber until 1967. Colorado executed 77 men between 1890 and 1967.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972 and then reversed itself in 1976. The Colorado General Assembly revised its statutes in 1984 to reinstate the death penalty.

On Oct. 13, 1997, the state executed Gary Lee Davis by lethal injection. It was the first and only execution since the death penalty was reinstated.

“This state has spent tens of millions of dollars since 1980 all for the fun of executing Gary Lee Davis,” Lane said.

The death penalty is only a sentencing option for first degree murder, and the district attorney can choose whether or not to seek it.

Canon City Record


dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty Provides More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

Enhanced Due Process

No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
That is. logically, conclusive.
Enhanced Incapacitation

To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape,  are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

There are a few absolutes when it comes to Life Without Parole. The legislature can lessen sentences, retroactively, and the executive branch can lessen any individual sentence.
Enhanced Deterrence

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
A surprise? No.
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.
Enhanced Fear

Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
Reality paints a very different picture.
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

What of that more rational group, the potential murderers who choose not to murder, is it likely that they, like most of us, fear death more than life?
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.
In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can, reasonably, conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.
Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times
copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites 
http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2   (Sweden) www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Anonymous said...

While i respect the opinions of DA's, there a very small minority.
Also the police certainly make there mistakes as do all of us. Specially Colorado prosecutors.(Where is Colorado's grand jury's)
Why not ask, WE the people?? The majority, the people of Colorado. DJW

Anonymous said...