DENVER — In his first interview in a month, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver that the looming execution of Nathan Dunlap, the Chuck E. Cheese killer, is the hardest decision he’s faced yet as governor.
A district judge is set to schedule an execution date for Dunlap, who murdered four people inside an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese 20 years ago, on May 1; and that execution date would likely be some time in August.
Phil Cherner, who represents Dunlap, told FOX31 Denver Monday that he hasn’t contacted the governor’s office yet, but that he will be asking Hickenlooper to commute his client’s death sentence if and when an execution date is set.
Hickenlooper has known this moment was approaching; and he’s been grappling with the issue for the last nine months.
He’s still nowhere close to a clear position.
“I think it’s the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with,” Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver Monday.
A month ago, Hickenlooper told House Democrats he was likely to veto legislation that would have repealed Colorado’s death penalty; the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Claire Levy, was steamed because she introduced the bill believing that Hickenlooper would sign it if it got to his desk.
“I thought we’d been pretty clear that we had real concerns with the bill,” Hickenlooper said. “I don’t think the people throughout the state, at this moment at least, are there yet.”
But unlike most policy decisions, capital punishment doesn’t break down party lines — it’s a political question that is, for many, deeply personal. And there’s no poll showing a broad majority on either side of the issue, as there’s been in support of universal background checks and civil unions, policies the cautious governor has backed this year.
That makes the death penalty an awkward issue for Hickenlooper, a personable but shrewdly political executive who values consensus above all.
“I had a couple of sleepless nights just trying to sort through it,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s easy to read in a book about making a decision like this, but when you have to make the decision, you internalize it, you take it more seriously.”
Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff Roxane White, an ordained minister, strongly opposes the death penalty; so does Jack Finlaw, the governor’s general counsel.
Former Director of Corrections Tom Clements, who was murdered last month, was also outspoken about his belief that state-sponsored executions should be outlawed
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.
Monday, April 22, 2013