Lawmakers just killed the bill that would make executions easier

Der Vollstrecker

A legislative measure to make capital punishment easier in Colorado just got the ax.

In a committee Feb. 10, a bipartisan group of lawmakers deep-sixed the bill that would have made it so juries here wouldn’t have to be unanimous in handing down a death sentence.

Related: Colorado law would make it easier for juries to sentence someone to death

The bill had been introduced earlier this session by Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud. After two separate juries last summer couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict to put two convicted killers to death, Lundberg had a notion: Let’s scrap the whole unanimous thing.

The bill was his own idea, he told The Colorado Independent, and he didn’t ping the District Attorneys Council about it before he dropped it on the Senate floor last month. Nor did he talk it over with George Brauchler, the district attorney in the 18th Judicial District who prosecuted the Aurora Theater case and has become Colorado’s public face in support of capital punishment.

So while protestors outside the Capitol demonstrated against the measure, only one man showed up to speak in favor of it in the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 10 — the father of a victim in the Aurora theater shooting. No prosecutors or anyone from the attorney general’s office stepped up to support it. Members also heard testimony from witnesses who said the bill wouldn’t pass constitutional muster.

At the hearing, one Republican, Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango, voted with two Democrats to kill the bill.

Related: Why death penalty abolitionists hit the snooze button in Colorado this year

“The committee, I believe, saw that we were taking a step backwards as a state,” says Doug Wilson, Colorado’s top public defender, about the vote. “We would be the ultimate outlier when it comes to doing less than unanimous when we’re talking about executing people.”

[Photo credit: Der Vollstrecker via Flickr]