22nd State Abolishes Death Penalty

Colorado governor also commutes sentences of 3 men on death row
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2020 9:00 AM CDT
22nd State Abolishes Death Penalty
In this March 13, 2006, photo, Robert Ray, center, listens, in Arapahoe County Court, in Centennial, Colo., after being indicted, along with Sir Mario Owens and Parish Carter, not in photo, in a double homicide that killed a witness and his girlfriend.   (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)

Colorado has become the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty, which it hasn't used since 1997. Forty-four years after capital punishment was reinstated in the Centennial State, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Monday banning its use—"consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado"—while at the same time commuting the sentences of three men on death row. Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens, and Nathan Dunlap, all "despicable and guilty," according to Polis, will now spend life in prison without the possibility of parole. "While I understand that some victims agree with my decision and others disagree, I hope this decision provides clarity and certainty for them moving forward," Polis said, per NBC News.

Apparently not for State Sen. Rhonda Fields. Ray was convicted of orchestrating the murders of Fields' 22-year-old son and his fiancee, who were witnesses to another murder. "In a stroke of a pen Gov. Polis hijacks justice and undermines our criminal justice system," said Fields. George Brauchler, who heads the largest district attorney's office in the state, said Polis had opted to "bury this horrendous decision" amid a pandemic, reports the Colorado Sun. Yet a Gallup poll from October showed 56% of respondents favored the death penalty while 42% were opposed. NBC notes it was the "highest level of opposition since the death penalty was re-established" in 1976. "Here's hoping for more compassion in the weeks & months to come," tweeted ACLU deputy national political director Udi Ofer. (Read more Colorado stories.)

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