Study: Colo. death penalty law unconstitutional

The conclusion could be earth-shaking as prosecutors in Arapahoe County are deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes


The Denver Post

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — Colorado prosecutors could seek the death penalty in the vast majority of first-degree murder cases in the state but instead pursue it so infrequently that the state's capital-punishment system is unconstitutionally arbitrary, three law professors argue in a new study.

The conclusion could be earth-shaking for the Colorado criminal-justice system, at a time when prosecutors in Arapahoe County are deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against Aurora shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes. It could have more direct implications in the looming death-penalty sentencing hearing of Edward Montour — whose defense team initiated the study and included it in a motion.

"This is a groundbreaking study," said David Lane, one of Montour's defense attorneys.

Colorado law says a person must be convicted of first-degree murder, the most serious murder charge, and also meet an extra aggravating factor to be eligible for a death sentence. To conduct the study, the professors — in a first-of-its-kind effort in Colorado — assembled a list of all homicide cases between 1999 and 2010, then identified which of those cases were first-degree murder cases.

Full story: Colorado death penalty law unconstitutional, study contends

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