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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.

Should the state dump the death penalty and use the money it saves to set up a unit to solve old murders and other crimes?

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.


  • February 24, 2009

    11:02 AM

    LetsThink writes:

    My liberal friends won't like hearing this. But we need to try to keep our thinking balanced, rational, and consistent.

    Society is starting to question whether condemned murderers should be put to death.

    But, they don't seem to have any difficulty putting (totally innocent) unborn children to death.

    What is wrong with our thinking???

  • February 24, 2009

    11:54 AM

    JW writes:

    "Society is starting to question whether condemned murderers should be put to death.

    But, they don't seem to have any difficulty putting (totally innocent) unborn children to death.

    What is wrong with our thinking???"

    The issues are not related. Thats whats wrong with your thinking. Also, pro-choice people DO have a problem with abortions. Thats why they want them safe, and RARE.

    As to whether murderers should be put to death, I have an opinion, but Im ok with whatever happens. They took the rights of someone else, I dont think they deserve any rights of their own.

    Thats totally unrelated to the topic of abortion though. That is a seperate issue completely, and Ive always thought those who are rabidly pro-life shoot themeselves in the foot by thinking incorrectly about the issue.

    There is simply no way to do away with abortion. Period. Every society has them, regardless of the laws regarding the proceedure. The best you can do is try to limit them. In those terms, it seems to me that those who are so rabidly pro-life would do well to examine societies around the world to find what works best to limit abortions.

    Instead, they push for IDEOLOGY based solutions regardless of their efficacy.

    And that is whats wrong with your thinking. You compare two things that are not comparable in an effort to support your idology based desires regarding abortion regardless of their lack of efficacy. Youre just totally wrong, in every way.


  • February 24, 2009

    1:48 PM

    Dudley Sharp writes:

    The legislative cost study found that the death penalty costs Colorado $386,000/per year, more than if Co didn't have it.

    Keep the death penalty.

    The current proposal is that an additonal $300, 000/yr. will be made available for cold cases.

    Provide the money for cold cases.

    As the death penalty offers more protection for innocents, I can't see why those wanting more cold case resources wouldn't say keep the death penalty and improve fundinf for cold case investigations.

  • February 24, 2009

    9:53 PM

    MistreatedVoter writes:

    I spent from 1:00 till 10 pm on Monday listening to both sides of this argument at our state capital. Know who wasn't there to listen to both sides? The media. After the proponents were done with most of their argument they were done. Which means those of us who feel in opposition to this proposed change had no voice through the media.

    I am not a victim or family member of a victim. I am not a lawyer or elected official. I am a young, educated, voting, informed member of Colorado. I believe there was a huge disservice to those on both sides Monday. First of all, this is a moral issue no matter how you slice it. It should be voted on by the rest of the state. The fact that Rep. Weissmann has tried on different occasions to repeal the death penalty shows this is just another means to his end. By telling these people that all these funds will be put to use to solve their case is an outright lie. There is no extra money. The CBI testified to that and the public defenders office couldn't answer the question about how much money they would save. Basically there simply won't be any savings left over and if there is it will be so minimal it still won't fund the extra help needed for this cold case unit that is so desperately needed. Rep. Weissmann went behind the voter's back with this one and is using these victims as his pawns to serve his agenda. Shameful. Shameful that our media doesn't report both sides. By the end of it when it came down to amendments on the bill Rep. Weissmann was ready to ditch the part where the "savings" went to the Cold Case Unit. This is true. As long as he got the votes he needed to get rid of the death penalty he didn't really care.

  • February 25, 2009

    1:07 PM

    Shaggy writes:

    Why take it off the table.
    Work on limiting the appeals process instead.
    It is just plain stupid to do away with it altogether.

  • February 25, 2009

    3:00 PM

    Andrea M writes:

    I am not a murderer. Supporting state-sanctioned murder means you yourself accept being a murderer. With so few death penalty cases in Colorado, it seems silly to even keep Death Row around. How about a compromise, you death penalty supporters can have the two guys already on death row, but from there on out, NO MORE!

  • February 25, 2009

    5:51 PM

    Dick writes:

    Of course there is no one detered by the death penelty. We never execute people. If we were to start executing people istead of giving them multiple life sentences, maybe they would be scared.

  • February 26, 2009

    8:31 AM

    Travis writes:

    "Supporting state-sanctioned murder means you yourself accept being a murderer"---Andrea

    Is this your opinion or do you have some facts to back this up?

    Dick you are right on, start enforcing our laws and people might start observing our laws.

    Same goes for our illegal immigration laws.
    If we enforce the current laws, they will won't come and will go home, where they belong.

  • February 26, 2009

    3:22 PM

    Hogar De Vuelta (العودة) Getting away with murder is not a good thing writes:

    Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, there have been 609,470 murders up to 2007. that is more than 20,000 murders each year for 30 years. In that same 30 years, there were just under 1,000 executions. The problem is no enough executions. I think an execution rate of 10 times the present one would be a very minimal step in the right direction. Murderers don't need sympathy, the victims and their victim's families need sympathy.

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