Colo. becomes 22nd state to abolish death penalty

Governors in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all halted executions in recent years

By Nelson Oliveira
New York Daily News

DENVER — Colorado has become the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty after Gov. Jared Polis signed the controversial repeal into law on Monday and commuted the death sentences of three “despicable” killers.

The highly anticipated move comes weeks after the state’s Democratic-dominated legislature approved the proposal despite opposition from Republicans and even some Democrats.

It is part of a national trend to do away with capital punishment, a shift that’s especially noticeable in western states. Governors in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all halted executions in recent years and no state west of Texas has executed an inmate in the past five years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Polis also changed the sentences of the only three people on Colorado’s death row to life in prison. One of them is a man who ambushed and murdered four people inside a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant nearly 30 years ago.

“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender," the Democratic governor said in a statement. "That is not why I am commuting these sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Rather, the commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the State of Colorado, and consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado,” he said.

The other two death-row inmates were convicted in the 2005 murder of state Sen. Rhonda Fields’ son and his his fianc\u00e9e.

Fields, one of several Democrats to oppose the ban, slammed the governor’s decision on Twitter, saying Polis hijacked justice and undermined our criminal justice system with the stroke of a pen.

Although U.S. states are gradually moving away from executions, President Trump’s administration is fighting to bring back the federal death penalty.

Attorney General William Barr unveiled a plan over the summer to resume executions at the federal level for the first time in more than 16 years. A federal judge has temporarily halted the proposal and several death-row inmates are challenging it in court.


©2020 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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