Friday, May 24, 2013

Nathan Dunlap and The Death of The Death Penalty In Colorado?

Earlier this week, Governor John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to a death row inmate, raising serious questions about the future of the death penalty in Colorado.

In 1993, Nathan Dunlap brutally murdered four people in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora, Colorado. He was sentenced to death and has been appealing the decision ever since. He recently exhausted his appeals, and his attorneys asked the Governor to give him clemency.

Rather than ordering the courts to give the shooter life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty, Governor Hickenlooper issued a "temporary reprieve," in order to study the issues related to this ultimate judicial penalty.

The governor's questions about the death penalty are as follows:

1. There are currently only three people on death row in Colorado, and the state has not executed a person in 40 years. There is clearly hesitancy on the part of Coloradoans to endorse the practice.

2. The statutorily mandated drugs required to execute an individual are not currently available in Colorado, raising the question of how, exactly, to kill a person.

3. Several law professors from the University of Denver have written a legal brief arguing the death penalty in Colorado is unconstitutional because, in their opinion, it is completely random which murderers get sentenced to death versus life in prison without parole.

4. There are numerous studies showing the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime.

5. Although it is obvious that the shooter in the Chuck E. Cheese case was guilty, there are many instances where individuals have been put to death only to discover later they were innocent.

Recent photo of Nathan Dunlap,
granted a temporary reprieve from death
As you might expect, the governor's decision has caused an uproar in Colorado, with death penalty opponents cheering the reprieve and death penalty supporters expressing outrage that Mr. Hickenlooper subverted the justice system and the will of the people.

I am interested on your take: what do you think of the death penalty? What about the governor's decision to issue a temporary reprieve? Finally, what do you think that will do to the prosecutor's case in the Aurora theater shooting where they are currently seeking the death penalty for the shooter?

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


The Governor is showing great courage.

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