The Denver Post
By David Land
Re: "Capital punishment in Colorado: Foes weigh push to repeal," Dec. 26 news story.
It appears that the Colorado legislature is finally poised to give serious consideration to ending the barbaric, money-sucking relic of bygone years known as the death penalty.
Since 1968, Colorado has executed one person. The article in the Dec. 26 Denver Post noted that the death penalty annually costs Colorado taxpayers $1.5 million. It also quotes Attorney General John Suthers as saying that there are times we need the death penalty "for the safety of the people."
Mr. Suthers never explains how executing one person in the last 45 years, at a cost of approximately $50 million, has made our state safer. Spending tens of millions for one execution seems like the most preposterous waste of money imaginable, especially when one considers the law enforcement programs which could have been funded with those scarce dollars.
Mr. Suthers simply resorts to the time-tested tactic of whipping up hysteria over truly heinous crimes and offering a "solution" to the problem which involves the government spending more millions to kill people. There is not one shred of evidence that the per capita murder rate in Texas, which executes someone almost every two weeks at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, has been affected in any way by the regular imposition of the death penalty.
No one disputes the fact that the system currently in place as mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court makes the death penalty far more costly than life without parole. Mandatory appeals consume resources, as do penalty phase trials, which almost always involve complex testimony from psychologists, neurologists and other specialized professionals, all of whom must be paid by taxpayers, as no one facing the death penalty has the resources necessary to hire their own lawyers. The public foots the bill for the prosecutors, the defense attorneys and all of the experts testifying on both sides.
When Jared Loughner pleaded guilty in Arizona for the Gabby Giffords shootings and was sentenced to life without parole, the nightmare of court appearances ended for all of the remaining victims. They would not be forced to testify at trial, they would not have to endure endless appeals with the fear always lurking in their minds that he would get a new trial and they would once again be forced to relive the nightmare on the witness stand. He will be incarcerated forever, and the victims can focus on healing and not on a court case which will never end.
Nathan Dunlap has been on Colorado's death row for 20 years. Edward Montour's death sentence was reversed and he is back for a new trial 10 years after the crime. Even if he is again sentenced to death, 30 years will have passed between the crime and the punishment and millions of dollars will have been wasted.
It is time for the legislature to stop pouring money down this barbaric drain. As any responsible law enforcement officer will tell you, killing people is not the solution to crime in our society. The death penalty in Colorado should be abolished.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Denver Post