Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Appeals Exhausted for Nathan Dunlap

The Colorado Independent

Appeals Exhausted for Colorado Chuck E. Cheese’s Killer

Decision to execute now rests with Gov. Hickenlooper
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm
The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the appeal of death-row prisoner Nathan Dunlap, the Colorado man convicted of the 1993 murder of four employees at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. Dunlap’s fate is now in the hands of Governor John Hickenlooper.

Whether or not to stay Dunlap’s execution will be one of the most profound decisions yet for Colorado’s conflict-averse and image-conscious governor, whose office so far has refused to comment on the case.
Tuesday’s announcement brings back memories of Dunlap’s rampage, which, pre-Columbine and pre-Aurora, shook the state, made national headlines and triggered calls to punish convicted killers beyond forcing them to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, watching TV and eating three meals a day on the state’s dime.
Unlike his predecessor Bill Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, Hickenlooper, a former brewmaster, has no background in law enforcement. Over the decade he has spent in politics, Hickenlooper has taken carefully scripted tough-on-crime stances on issues ranging from security at the Democratic National Convention to defending Denver police officers in excessive-force cases.
Still, the timing of the Supreme Court’s decision is tricky. It comes the week Democratic lawmakers had planned to propose a bill abolishing the death penalty in Colorado. The Governor — who has hedged on the issue for years — recently has suggested he’s leaning toward abolition. Behind the scenes, his chief legal counsel, Jack Finlaw, has spent months urging policy makers to end the death penalty.
Despite those efforts, sources close to the discussions say Hickenlooper’s resolve has waned in the past few weeks for fear that pushing abolition this session could compromise two other liberal pieces of his legislative agenda — passing same-sex civil unions and strengthening gun control. Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino apparently shares those concerns. A meeting is scheduled this afternoon to discuss the death-penalty bill and whether to stall its introduction and effectively kill it this session.
Instead of abolishing the death penalty in the state, Hickenlooper could push a moratorium on executions, thereby passing the responsibility to his successor. A moratorium could keep the status quo in place for decades. Since the national reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976, Colorado has executed only one man, Gary Lee Davis, a convicted murderer who chose ice cream as his last meal before dying by lethal injection in 1997.
Davis’s execution came during the period when judges, not juries, had the authority to hand down death sentences in Colorado. In the aftermath of the Chuck E. Cheese’s murders and other high-profile cases, lawmakers in 1995 had set up a system in which a three-judge panel could sentence murder convicts to death. That system was deemed unconstitutional in 2002 on grounds that the panels don’t represent a trial by peers.
Meantime, Dunlap and a handful of other death row inmates have pinballed through the court system as the laws around capital punishment continue to morph.

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