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saying Colorado’s death penalty has failed them, does not serve the best interests of victims’ families and should be repealed.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.