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Bill to repeal death penalty in Colorado filed with bipartisan support

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By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

Legislation to repeal Colorado’s death penalty has another iteration in the 2020 session, this time with bipartisan support. 

Lawmakers have introduced Senate Bill 100, which was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial. Sens. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, also signed on to the bill.

No House Republicans have signed onto the bill thus far.

A similar bill last session drew contentious debate among Democrats due to opposition by Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, whose son and his fiancee were murdered by two of the three men currently on death row in the state.

That legislation was laid over by Gonzales, who said she wanted to give it “a dignified death.”

Senate Bill 100 would only apply to those convicted on or after July 1, 2020, so the death penalties of the three men currently on death row in the state would not be affected. Gov. Jared Polis, who has indicated support for a repeal in the past, would need to commute the past sentences himself under the proposed legislation. 

Only one man, Gary Lee Davis in 1997, has been executed in the state of Colorado since 1976.

The ACLU of Colorado, one of the key backers of a death penalty repeal, on Monday released a report called “Ending A Broken System: Colorado’s Expensive, Ineffective and Unjust Death Penalty,” which highlights victims in Colorado who support ending the practice. 

The report argues capital punishment “is an expensive, ineffective, and unjust process” and that it’s “neither a deterrent nor an effective plea-bargaining tool.”

“At the trial level alone, a death penalty case costs Colorado taxpayers approximately $3.5 million versus $150,000 for a non-capital first degree murder trial,” the report said.

Fields, along with 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, a Republican, say a death penalty repeal should be put on the ballot for voters to decide.