The FBI homicide data for 2007 are now out, and they reveal a shameful failure that many Colorado prosecutors and politicians would love to hide. Whereas 90 percent of all homicides were resolved with an arrest in 1960, the clearance rate has now plummeted to 61.2 percent.
In other words, if someone we love is murdered, chances are 4 in 10 that the killer will successfully escape justice. Indeed, over 1,400 homicides have occurred in Colorado since 1970 that have not been solved.
Unlike many politicians and prosecutors, the family members of these murder victims have vowed to address the problem.
We need to form cold case squads so that these cases will continue to be investigated. It is simply unacceptable for the authorities to tell so many families that nothing further will be done to find the killer of their loved one.
Where will the money come from? The families know that this is not the time for the state to find new revenue. Instead, they are suggesting that we simply reallocate funds that are already being spent on supposedly helping families of homicide victims.
Their suggestion is to better use the millions of dollars that Colorado currently wastes on the death penalty.
Since 1980, Colorado has seen some 5,500 homicides, and prosecutors have sought the death penalty 124 times. Despite extraordinary efforts and expense, the state has compiled a dismal record: we have had only one execution, with two others on death row. Any business that was operated with the same success rate would have gone bankrupt long ago. The death penalty offers nothing but false hope.
If the death penalty is scrapped, all those convicted of first degree murder would still be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. They would still receive same sentences they are getting now, and our state would save millions on their trials and appeals. They would still die in prison.
Taxpayers, on the other hand, would be the big winners, freeing up resources that could otherwise be used to support families of homicide victims.
Over the past thirty years there have been numerous studies by newspapers, state supreme courts, legislators, and scholars on this issue. Without exception, all the best studies show that the death penalty is far more expensive than life imprisonment without parole. Lawyers and judges cost a lot more than prison guards.