Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday that he has an opinion on the death penalty but won't say what it is.
Ritter spoke about the death penalty at a news conference to discuss the 2009 legislative session, which ended Wednesday.
House Bill 1274, which ultimately failed, would have eliminated the death penalty in Colorado and used expected savings to pay for the investigation of unsolved homicides.
Supporters argued that by repealing the death penalty, the state could save $1.5 million a year in legal costs, creating funding for eight state investigators to reopen more than 1,400 cold-case homicides.
The House had already narrowly approved the bill, but it failed in the Senate on a 17-18 vote Wednesday, the last day of the session. With two Democratic vacancies in the Senate — and a potential third — the vote count could change if the issue returns next year.
This session marked the closest the Democratic-controlled legislature had ever come to repealing the death penalty.
Still, Ritter has never said whether he would have signed or vetoed the bill, saying only that he would listen to the arguments on both sides.
Asked Thursday if that meant he didn't have an opinion on the death penalty, the former prosecutor did not clarify his stance.
"Yes, I have an opinion, but I'm not going to share that with you," Ritter said, "because then people feel like the argument (they make) is meaningless.
"And the fact of the matter is on a host of issues, arguments are not meaningless. It's important for a person in my position to hear their arguments and make decisions based on their arguments."
House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, the sponsor of the bill, said he had discussed the death penalty with Ritter since the governor took office in 2006. In the first conversation, Weissmann said Ritter told him he would carefully watch whether the district attorneys across the state applied the death penalty fairly and consistently.