February 24, 2009 9:50 AM
Time for Colorado to jettison the death penalty?
Colorado has executed exactly one person since 1967 and two men are on death row.
Ed Sealover reports:
House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, revived his bill that just missed passing the House in 2007. The threat of death does not deter people from committing murders, he said, and the $370,000 spent to prosecute those cases could be better spent on investigating unsolved murders.
Since 1967, Colorado has executed one person and there are only two people on death row, Weissmann said. During that time, there have been 1,435 unsolved homicides.
Since the early 1980s, the national clearance rate for murder cases has dropped from 80 percent to 62 percent, said University of Colorado sociology professor Michael Radelet, who has written seven books on the death penalty.
A parade of family members of murder victims went before the House Judiciary Committee asking for more public resources.
Diane Reichert said that after high school friend Constance Paris was abducted, raped and killed in 1968, six other women disappeared or were killed in the same area. If investigators had more money and resources, the killer may have been caught and some women may be alive, she said.
Dianne Harrell burst into tears and begged the committee to put more into solving cold cases like that of her son, Bruce, who was killed in 2006 while driving home from a Denver Nuggets game.
"I am hurting. I hurt every day. And I want something done," Harrell told the committee. "I want justice for my son. I don't want to see my money used to house someone on death row when the money could be used to take care of my son's case."
But several opponents of Weissmann's bill said it's based on a false argument.
Attorney General John Suthers noted that the Homicide Assistance Unit that works to solve and prosecute death penalty cases also has assisted 19 of the state's 22 judicial districts with cold cases.