Larry Haines : Repeal state death penalty


Last Friday, 30 family members of Colorado murder victims signed a letter saying Colorado’s death penalty has failed them, does not serve the best interests of victims’ families and should be repealed. Rep. Claire Levy has introduced a bill in the Colorado House to do just that.

I have not endured a tragic loss of a loved one at the hands of a murderer and could never understand the pain these survivors have endured. It is apparent to me, however, how flawed our death penalty is. Many of us had the privilege to meet Juan Melendez and hear him speak to our community when he visited Steamboat in 2010. Juan told us his story of serving 17 years on Florida’s death row until it was discovered that his prosecutor had withheld a transcript of a taped confession of the real murderer.

Colorado has not been exempt from prosecutors placing convictions ahead of justice. In 2010, the Arapahoe County District Attorney was found to have withheld evidence when it sought the death penalty in the prosecution of David Bueno for killing a fellow Department of Corrections inmate. Arapaho County even billed the State of Colorado for the prosecution. Not coincidentally, all three of those currently on death row are from Arapahoe County; they also are all African-American and even attended the same high school.

Colorado has spent an estimated $18 million in its attempts to execute Nathan Dunlap. How many cold case murders might have been solved had these funds been used for that purpose, which was the intent of the narrowly defeated 2009 Colorado bill to repeal the death penalty? Whether you are sentenced to death in Colorado is dependent more on where you live, your race and your economic background than the circumstances surrounding your crime. The United States joins China, Iran and North Korea as countries having the highest number of executions per year, not the company I want to keep when it comes to human rights. The threat of capital punishment certainly did not deter James Holmes from his murderous rampage in Colorado last summer.

Maryland soon will be the 18th state to abolish the death penalty as a result of these same concerns. Please urge Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Randy Baumgardner to repeal Colorado’s arbitrary, expensive and ineffective death penalty.

Larry Haines

Steamboat Springs


Kevin Chapman 2 years, 11 months ago

Kill James Holmes. Don't waste taxpayer money on keeping this guy alive. If you get the guy at the scene doing the crime he should be put to death. Don't waste the taxpayer's money. Don't televise it, don't use it as a tool to keep people from doing the same. Just get rid of the guy for public safety.


Marie Matta 2 years, 11 months ago

Thank you, Larry, for highlighting this important issue in your excellent letter. I think your point about the company we keep as a death penalty country is a powerful argument against continuing this form of punishment. As a Catholic, I am very disappointed that the Church leadership in the US, and some other Christian leaders, who have put so much energy into advocating a "culture of life" in opposing abortion and artificial contraception, have given little or no attention to speaking out against the death penalty. Perhaps our new Pope Francis might use his influence to champion this cause.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Basic problem with death penalty is that it does not work. No evidence that those considering committing murder contemplate the difference of potentially receiving a death sentence vs being sentenced to life. For that and other reasons, it does not work as a deterrent.

In practice, there are too many real and potential flaws that requires exceptional levels of review to try to be sure the irrevocable punishment is to be properly applied. For a punishment that is supposed to be sure that the convicted are guilty, there have been way too many conclusively found innocent. Fortunately, most have been found innocent prior to being put to death.

Texas executed a man proven innocent while still alive, but the idiotic Perry didn't care. The man was convicted of killing his kids via arson, but the arson investigator that testified at trial was self taught and falsely read the evidence to say gasoline was used to spread the fire. When a renowned expert looked at it as part of the appeals process, he said that is simply how fires naturally burn and showed how it had burned very similarly to known accidental fires of similar mobile homes. And other renowned experts supported his analysis. But evidence analysis after the trial does not require appellate judges to reconsider the case so they ignored it. And so did Gov Perry. And so a known innocent man was executed.


rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

Two wrongs don't make a right. To paraphrase (and possibly embellish) Gandalf, when Frodo (Bilbo?) said they should have killed Gollum when they had the chance, he deserved to die -- Yes, and many die who deserve life -- can you give them that as well? Do not be so eager to take what you cannot give. Nobody knows what contributions one might eventually make. And indeed Gollum did help out when the time came, quite inadvertently.

Why not use these condemned souls for scientific experimentation? Procedures considered too risky for most healthy subjects. Many long-term prisoners are body-builders anyway, making them ideal candidates. If we lose one now and then, well... but if they survive, and are hence proven innocent in the appeals process or through new evidence, they will have benefitted from the experience, as well as humanity in general. Prisoners could help us discover the secret to immortality. Learn how to transplant my healthy 90-year-old brain into a strapping 18-year-old who died in an unfortunate accident (after fixing him up). Or how to hook up a USB port to import knowledge, probably around the ear. The possibilities are endless. And we have a pool of healthy and probably-willing subjects.

Leave it to ol' Rhys to throw a wrench in the works.

And Jerry -- The Nuggets are GREAT, a lot of fun this year, currently on an 11-game winning streak. As a TNT announcer said, the night they ran the Clippers off the floor -- "People say they don't have a superstar -- while I would say they've got 4 or 5 of them. [Iggy, Ty, Javale, Kenneth, Corey, Wilson, Danilo,...] Nobody wants to face these Nuggets in the playoffs." Go Nuggets!!


rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

If I may expound for a second; pardon the digression; I've been accused of being a forum troll before, possibly with reason... but I've got the time, day off, earned my turns but too windy to ski, this old fart is picky... so please endure my drum-banging for another minute or two, as I use this forum as my venue.

No I didn't see "Matrix" though I heard about it; I had this idea independently, long ago. Our ancient Univacs in the Marines were State-Of-The-Art back then, a whopping 5K core storage in a box the size of a refrigerator, not including peripherals. Flashing lights on the front, addressible registers, old-school. Some brilliant programmers had written some routines, called Songs and Tunes for instance, and when you executed these programs, lights would flash but nothing apparently happened... but if you took a portable radio, raised the antenna near the computer and played with the tuner, you'd find a place where it would play these songs, all the service hymns and Yesterday... the programmers knew that the electromagnetic fields inherent in any flow of electricity would excite each other in close proximity such as computer storage, and by controlling and timing the instructions they executed, they could get the computer to literally broadcast their notes.

This immediately explained ESP to me. We all are broadcasting. Necessarily. All the time. All on our own frequency, however weak the signal. It's got to be minute, but it's there. The human brain is a more highly concentrated mass of electro-chemical energy than any computer devised to date, let alone that dinosaur we played songs on. Some people's signals may be stronger than others', and some may be more receptive to others' signals than other people. But there's no mystery to it; ESP has a basis in scientific fact.

And if we could get condemned prisoners to help us unlock the secrets of the mind, wouldn't that be a cool thing? Digression over; back to reality.


rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

Cancer? Heart disease? Mental deviation for sure. Squibb and Bristol-Myers moved R&D to India for the larger pool of subjects for their test drugs, while I might suggest we have a captive pool right here, for more aggressive procedures. Don't waste these people; use them for the benefit of mankind. If they're guilty, they sort of volunteered themselves, and if they're innocent, it buys time for the appeals or new evidence to surface. It's a win-win situation.


Fred Duckels 2 years, 11 months ago

Kevin, When one goes on death row it costs us many times more than life in prison does. We are cutting off our nose to spite our face.


Kevin Chapman 2 years, 11 months ago

I am sure this is a very general statement. Some folks in, say texas, likely don't average the same amount of time on death row as somewhere else like, lets say colorado....Also each state has it's own interpretation of "life". Some state's life is truly LIFE where as some states define it as jail for twenty years with possibility of parol at that point. So i don't put much faith into such a large generalization. If you catch the guy in the act with irrefutable evidence i don't think the assailant should live much longer on this earth. This may be my conservative side showing.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Death penalty convictions prior to DNA testing have been rechecked and conclusively proved that people on death row were innocent. Illinois ended up releasing dozens of people. It included recent cases because DAs didn't test DNA from even recent cases because police and DA were so confident that they had the right suspect that they didn't see a need to test DNA.

If you believe the appeals process to be corrupt then why not believe the prosecuting DA to be corrupt. Prosecuting a high profile death penalty case is a big political step for a DA. So a politically ambitious DA personally gains from a death penalty case. The appeals process is long and with minimal publicity so has no one politically winning. Thus, there is less of an incentive for corruption in the appeals process than in the initial prosecution.


mark hartless 2 years, 11 months ago

The people Mr. Haines metions who were wrongfully on Death Row because of negligent or corrupt prosecutors...? Wouldn't they just be wrongfully serving life in prison instead, if the death penalty was repealed??

That hardly seems like an equitable solution for those few people. Isn't that more of an argument to clean up a corrupt prosecutorial system, rather than to abolish a certain form of punishment for the truly guilty?

Scott W. says that the death penalty is not a deterrent, but how many executed murderers can he name that were not successfully detered from a second offense by being executed?

And how many other "James Holmes's" might there have been who instead re-considered a murderous act because they knew about the possible deadly consequences?

How, when many a mans evil thoughts are carried with him to the grave, can anyone know or quantify the number of people who were detered, or what might have served to deter them?

Finally, I believe many of the same people who oppose the deah penalty also oppose guns for generally the same reason... the abuses and dysfunction associated with these practices. I sure wish they would project the same logic oto the most dysfunctional, abusive, and imperfect institution of all... gubbamint. However, unlke guns and the death penalty, when their mascot, Uncle Scam, repeatedly fails, abuses, wastes, misallocates, lies, and punishes the inocent in so many other ways, they no only see no need to abolish it. On the contrary, their "solution" for that mperfecton is to let it grow exponentially.

Go figure...


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

A life sentence without parole can at least allow an innocent person to have the rest of his life.

There is evidence that the political importance for the DA of a death penalty case that death penalty cases are more likely to be subject to prosecutor misconduct. Once a DA charges for a death penalty then it damages the prosecutor's political career if charges are reduced or dropped.

It costs less to put someone in jail for life than to execute them. So those wanting a less wasteful government and living in a fact based world would want to end the death penalty.


mark hartless 2 years, 10 months ago

The fact that it costs more to house an admitted and convicted murderer for the rest of his life than to chop his head off and throw it into the dumpster is a testament to the utter corruption and uselessness of the American justice system.

Hellen Keller could see that James Holmes is guilty, but the same folks who want to remove my assault rifles are the same drones who want to stand between this monster and the justice any MORON sees he deserves.


rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

I've got to agree with Mark's last five words, including the emphasis.


jerry carlton 2 years, 10 months ago

Go work in Corrections 5 years and see if you are still against the death penalty. I saw on the Arizona news tonight and I expect that it will make the national news that the head of Colorado DOC was shot and killed at his home today. You give this guy life in prison until he kills a prison guard? If any of you feel good liberals have ever served in the mlitary or worked in any type of law enforcement, I would like to hear from you on this forum.


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