Colorado House of Representatives Passes Death Penalty Repeal, Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

By Julia Martinez

The Colorado House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the death penalty through a formal vote around 4 am and is now awaiting a signature from Democratic Colorado governor Jared Polis.

Although the vote to repeal the death penalty was passed with Democrats holding a 17-vote advantage in the House of Representatives and passed in the Senate the month previously, the Republicans attempted to stall the bill with various methods.

Several Republican representatives proposed bill amendments, argued this was an issue that should be voted on by the people, and Steve Humprey even went as far as reading the Bible for “39 minutes,” according to the Denver Post.

The majority of Democratic representatives viewed letting the people vote on this matter as the easy way out. According to Rep. Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins, “I’m not going to dodge the hard issues by sending them to the people… we are the people.”

Only two Democratic representatives voted in opposition to the repeal, Rhonda Fields and Tom Sullivan, who experienced members of their families being murdered, viewing the death penalty as an outlet for justice. The murder of Tom Sullivan’s son did not receive the death penalty but the murderers of Rhonda Fields’ son and fiancee were two of the three men currently on Colorado’s death row.

The arguments to preserve capital punishment versus to abolish it are surrounded by the idea of either defending families and victims versus defending criminals.

Republicans argue the death penalty should be preserved in regards to its function to “secure guilty pleas from a defendant… sparing victims’ families lengthy and painful trials,” according to Reuters. Although Colorado does not carry out many executions in practice, Republicans argued it was a necessary tactic for prosecution.

Whereas Democrats make arguments to repeal the death penalty under the advancing technology and nonprofit legal organizations making increasing discoveries of wrongfully convicted individuals on death row, as well as how it disproportionally affects people of color and lower-incomes.

According to Democratic Representative Adrienne Benavidez, “The death penalty is immoral, it is applied inconsistently, and it is the one punishment in our entire justice system that can’t be undone or corrected.”

In a recent Gallup poll, results showed that “Five years ago, most Democrats already favorited life imprisonment to the death penalty, but now nearly eight in 10 do. Independents’ preferences have flipped, from being a slightly pro-death penalty in 2014 to favoring life imprisonment now. Republicans remain in favor of the death penalty but to a lesser degree.”

After hours of discussion, all of the Republicans voted against the appeal, but it was ultimately passed.

The Republican representatives responded to this decision by arguing that the Democrats continue not to allow the citizens’ voices to be heard. According to the Colorado House Republicans via Twitter, “We fought the good fight, but time and time again, Democrats refused our push to give the people a say.”

Governor Jared Polis is said to “sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk”, according to Reuters.

Since 2004, Colorado will be the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty upon Governor Polis’s signature to the bill.

For those who oppose the death penalty, the passing of this bill is a win in another state. However, capital punishment in federal government laws still exist.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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