I just learned that there is an effort by some of the Democrat legislators to raise the Colorado gas tax to pay for what they consider to be transportation priorities, rather than use existing funds to pay for actual transportation maintenance and repair.
Actually, its two efforts. One group is preparing to meet the TABOR requirement and put the vote before the voters, however the second group is attempting to circumvent the TABOR requirement by tacking on a gas surcharge.
The Federal tax on a gallon of gas is 18.4 cents and on a gallon of diesel it is 24.40 cents.
The Colorado tax on a gallon of gas is currently .22 cents per gallon.
...and so the total fuel tax in Colorado currently is over .40 cents per each gallon.
The Colorado branch of Americans for Prosperity is spearheading the effort to stop this tax increase and has created this website in an effort to get voters to contact their legislators about this issue. I wish they had included a little more info about the current tax and the proposals but at least it is an effort to notify voters.
No Gas Tax Increase
|Fourth line skater|
As far as the state healthcare I'd rather the states do it over the federal government. So, I'd be willing to listen to that argument.
She's into malakas, Dino!
CO seems to follow whatever happens in CA, be it a fuel tax increase or the death penalty. CA voters recently voted for the death penalty but it was 'suspended' by newsom for as long as he's in office.
So much for the will of the people.
We're not talking health care...we're talking health care insurance... or who is paying for our actual health care.
Our Founding Fathers made no mention of providing necessities for U.S. citizens or paying for them either...and no mention of who will pay for our health care is found in either the U.S. or the Colorado Constitutions.
There is, no doubt, a role for both the Federal and State governments to play in this debate, but IMO it shouldn't include either one of them actually running or paying for most health care recipients. There is a role for either or both when it comes to those with serious pre-existing conditions (the equivalent of a high risk pool), and perhaps even VA or medicare recipients. There is a role for the Feds and State to play when it comes to allowing for and promoting competition within the health care market. There is a role for the Feds and State to play when it comes to the concept of portable insurance plans...but personally speaking I do not want either the Fed or State governments to either administer, manage, or pay for my health care.
By last count, and this information is several years old, Colorado had over 50 health care insurance mandates. 50 + mandates. Read this as 50 + mandated coverages, required by state law. Each state in the U.S. has its own set of insurance mandates required by law.
Why should a middle-aged adult, especially a middle-aged man and/ or his employer, be required to pay for health care insurance that includes say, pre-natal care, if he is done having children or is not interested in having any children at all? Why should any adult or their employer be required to purchase health care that includes coverage for things like drug addiction or mental health counselling if they have no reasonable expectation of ever using these services? and health insurance companies are only all too willing to sell higher premium coverage mandated by state law, when they know they will never have to pay out any claims for that coverage for that individual recipient.
As far as I'm concerned state insurance mandates are a scam.
Fed/ State should be working on:
-Promoting competition in the health care services and insurance markets
- Reducing/ eliminating mandates
- Coverage for high risk pools like pre-existing conditions
- Transparency in published health care service costs
- Portability in health care insurance plans
... not administering or managing a socialized medicine single-payer system of health insurance. which will lead down the same failed path of rationing health care, long delays in critical health care services, generally poor quality health care for those who are seriously ill, and doctors/ nursing/ staffing shortages, repeatedly found in countries that have adopted government run health care services.
Yes, the elitist Democrat overlords who have been elected to lead both Denver and Colorado had chosen to ignore the will of many of the voters and, instead, follow CA, OR, and WA in their rush to a socialist utopia.
Brauchler: Coloradans should have the final say on the death penalty (and I’d hope they keep it)
By GEORGE BRAUCHLER | March 1, 2019 at 12:04 p.m.
Our General Assembly is poised to take away from Coloradans the decision about whether to have a death penalty, citing lack of popular support, lack of deterrence, excessive costs and even racism in its application. Each of these points is easily refuted. There are good reasons to maintain capital punishment in our state and even better reasons for Coloradans themselves to decide whether to repeal it.
Anti-death penalty activists regularly claim as justification for repeal that public sentiment for capital punishment is waning. Colorado doesn’t need to rely on outcome-driven polling or speculation to answer this question. We can rely on the only poll that matters: the ballot.
In the many decades since the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty constitutional, no state’s voters have repealed it. None. While several state courts and legislatures have ended capital punishment, whenever and wherever voters are permitted to vote on the death penalty, they vote to keep it. In some cases, they vote to put it back into law after a legislature imposes its will over the voters’.
In 2016, the Nebraska legislature repealed the death penalty and then overrode the governor’s veto of that repeal. Nebraskans overwhelmingly voted it back in the next general election. That same year, there were two ballot measures in California to repeal the death penalty and to speed up the appellate process for death sentences. Californians — yes, Californians — voted to keep the death penalty and to speed up the appellate process.
The stubborn reality that the public still supports a death penalty is precisely why anti-death penalty legislators and the governor will deny us the right to vote on it. Even former Gov. John Hickenlooper, after suspending the death sentence of mass murderer Nathan Dunlap, said that the repeal of the death penalty was not a matter for the legislature, but for the people of Colorado.
Good idea. Coloradans can be trusted to vote on important matters like taxes, term limits, school funding, marijuana and the death penalty.
If the legislature permits us to vote on the abolition of the death penalty, we can have an honest debate about the facts and reasons for and against capital punishment.
There have been numerous studies with widely divergent and sometimes inconsistent findings on the issue of deterrence. Recently, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences engaged in a comprehensive analysis of those many studies and concluded: “claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate by a specified amount or has no effect on the homicide rate should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment.”
And yet, deterrence is only one of many purposes of sentencing. The paramount goal of sentencing is the imposition of justice. Sometimes, justice is dismissing a charge, granting a plea bargain, expunging a past conviction, seeking a prison sentence, or — in a very few cases, for the worst of the worst murderers — sometimes, justice is death.
A drug cartel member who murders a rival cartel member faces life in prison without parole. What if he murders two, three, or 12 people? Or the victim is a child or multiple children? What if the murder was preceded by torture or rape? How about a serial killer? Or a terrorist who kills dozens, hundreds or thousands?
The repeal of the death penalty treats all murders as the same. Once a person commits a single act of murder, each additional murder is a freebie.
That is not justice.
President Barack Obama agrees. Although he has called the death penalty troubling, his justice department sought capital punishment numerous times, including in the cases of the Boston Marathon bomber and the murderer of nine in a Charleston church.
A state without a death penalty promises the evilest among us that “no matter what you do to us, and no matter how many times you do it and to whom you do it, you never have to worry about forfeiting your life.”
Anti-death penalty activists also claim without reliable or logical support that capital punishment costs too much. They object to my refusal to give the Aurora theater mass murderer the sentence he found acceptable and they repeat the unproven claim (the office of the public defender has never disclosed what it spent) that the trial “cost $5 million.” They skip the fact that most of the money spent by my office was to uphold the rights of the 1,158 victims.
Those who suggest that the repeal of the death penalty would lead to significant savings ignore common sense. If Colorado had no death penalty on July 20, 2012, does anybody honestly believe that the mass murderer would have shown up in court to plead guilty and go to prison for eternity? No. The same lengthy trial would have occurred with all the same victims, witnesses and expenses.
In fact, Colorado’s death penalty has led to some taxpayer savings. Just within the past several years, two murder cases in Arapahoe saw the defendants plead guilty to avoid capital punishment.
The claim by some that Colorado’s capital punishment is motivated by race relies upon a debunked 2012 study commissioned by criminal defense attorneys for a two-time murderer trying to avoid the death penalty. The study has been rejected by every Colorado court in which it has been offered. One court found the study “flaw[ed]” and a “red herring.” Another, finding that the study used “a substantially skewed database,” concluded “it is clear it was not an unbiased study, but one designed to provide support for a particular position and designed to reach an anticipated conclusion.”
Three men currently occupy Colorado’s death row. In 1993, Nathan Dunlap tried to murder five people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and succeeded in killing four. One teenage victim began to shake her head and pleaded with him “no.” Dunlap said this made him angry. So, he shot her through the top of the head. In 2013, John Hickenlooper intervened to derail the jury’s death sentence for this monster.
More than a decade later, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray earned death sentences for murdering Gregory Vann, and subsequently murdering the courageous eyewitness to that killing, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancé, Vivian Wolfe. It is a historical anomaly that the only three remaining murderers on death row are Dunlap, Owens, and Ray, all African-American men. In between Dunlap and Owens/Ray, Colorado changed its death penalty sentencing from a jury to a three-judge panel. Numerous other heinous murderers — white, Latino, Asian — faced death sentences in jurisdictions throughout the state, including triple ax murderer Cody Neal in Jefferson County and a killer of his 11-week-old daughter who then bludgeoned a prison guard to death. The Supreme Court declared the panel unconstitutional, automatically converting those sentences to life.
ICYMI: I sought capital punishment for the Aurora theater mass murderer, a white man from upper-middle-class California. A single juror kept him from death row.
If our legislature repeals the death penalty, the death sentences for Dunlap, Owens, and Ray will be converted to mere life sentences, either by Gov. Jared Polis or by the Colorado Supreme Court. The same outcome has followed every legislative repeal across the country.
If the repeal of the death penalty is to be Colorado’s future, it should be Coloradans who repeal it. The legislature should refer repeal to the ballot and trust Coloradans to decide whether to treat all murderers the same or to maintain a tool to distinguish the worst of the worst.
George H. Brauchler is the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
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Local news had earlier reported that, after the lengthy debate and vote Tuesday there was a final vote due on Thursday, however either that was bad info or the legislature stepped up the schedule as the House voted to pass the bill today.
For those who agree that the repeal of the death penalty is a bad idea and that a matter this serious should be determined by the voters this is do or die Hail Mary time...time to contact the Governor's Office directly.
[NOTE: There are a couple pictures and a link to a 5+ hour video of today's legislative session at the linked website.]
Colorado House passes bill to repeal state's death penalty to Gov. Polis' desk
Colorado will become 22nd state to abolish death penalty
Posted: 2:02 PM, Feb 26, 2020 Updated: 6:37 PM, Feb 26, 2020
DENVER – The bill to repeal Colorado’s death penalty cleared its final legislative hurdle Wednesday afternoon in a 38-27 vote in the House of Representatives, and the governor’s office says he will sign the measure in what is expected to be one of the most consequential moments of the 2020 legislative session.
The measure passed its third reading Wednesday morning after passing its second reading early Tuesday morning after an 11-hour debate period. There was more than five hours of emotional testimony from lawmakers before the final vote Wednesday. Passage of the bill, HB20-100, was all-but a foregone conclusion after the bill cleared the Senate late last month because of the strong Democratic majority in the House.
Some Republicans — and Democrats — made their final pleas to send the question of whether to repeal the death penalty to voters, as they have sought in prior discussions about the bill. Rep. Tim Geitner again tried to offer an amendment to refer the question to voters — but that attempt failed despite five Democrats voting for it. Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Democrat whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, was also among those who opposed passage of the measure during prior debate this week.
Much of the opposition from lawmakers came because they feel families of murder victims will not get closure if the death penalty is not on the table for the killers.
But many Democrats pointed that there are other options, which they say are more cost-effective, than capital punishment. Rep. Jovan Melton, who represents the district from where all three of Colorado's death row inmates hail, said it was not equitable for that to be the case, and said he supported the measure because it was something he had hoped to accomplish since he first took office. House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, read a statement from her friend and capital punishment attorney Madeline Cohen, who represents one of the state's death row inmates, who said that she supported the efforts to put her out of a job because she felt the system was unjust to those who face the death penalty.
In the end, three Democrats voted against the measure — Reps. Kyle Mullica, Brianna Titone and Tom Sullivan — all of whom said they would be voting "no" during Wednesday's debate. Zero Republicans voted for the measure.
But Democrats hold an advantage in the House and had the votes to pass the bill Wednesday.
Colorado is now the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty.
“Rarely are we asked to decide an issue that is as momentous, impactful, and as hard as this, and I have empathy and understanding for my colleagues who may find a different answer,” House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said in a statement after the measure’s passage. “I have been humbled and moved by the testimony and debate that we have heard. My hope is for a society where we spend our resources on rehabilitation, not on appeals; on treating drug addictions, and not administering lethal injections.”
The measure repeals the state’s death penalty for any crimes charged by prosecutors on or after July 1, 2020. There are currently three people on Colorado’s death row: Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens and Nathan Dunlap.
Ray and Owens were convicted of killing Javad Marshall-Fields, the son of Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Marshall-Fields fiancée in 2005, and Fields’ opposition to the repeal has been a key point of contention in this year’s debate after it caused last year’s repeal measure to fail. New Republican sponsorship in the Senate offset Fields’ opposition to the measure and allowed it to pass the Senate.
The 2020 repeal measure was the sixth attempt by lawmakers in recent years to get rid of the death penalty in Colorado – but the first to succeed.
A spokesperson for Polis confirmed Tuesday night that the governor will sign the bill.
Colorado voters passed a law to reinstate the death penalty in 1974 but it was struck down four years later by the Colorado Supreme Court. But in 1979, the legislature passed another bill reinstating the death penalty, which then-Gov. Dick Lamm allowed to become law without his signature. In 1997, Gary Lee Davis became the last person to be executed in Colorado and the first since Luis Monge in 1967. He was also the only person executed in Colorado to die as a result of lethal injection.
Once the repeal becomes law, anyone convicted of a class 1 felony that is charged after July 1 of this year would automatically face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gov. Polis has 10 days to sign a bill once it has been received. In a statement last month when the bill was introduced, Gov. Polis’ spokesperson Conor Cahill said the governor would consider “many factors” should lawmakers pass the measure.
“There are currently no clemency requests involving the death penalty before the Governor. All clemency requests are weighty decisions that the Governor will judge on their individual merits," Cahill said. "If the legislature repeals the death penalty, that is one of many factors he would consider along with all of the facts surrounding the case.”
This is a developing news story and will be updated.
There is an effort to repeal the Red Flag law and amend the 72 hour mental health hold law.
The bill has several sponsors and while it is not being fast-tracked it is still scheduled for a hearing...now would be a great time to contact your elected reps. and express your support for it.
The bill repeals the laws relating to extreme risk protection orders.
Under current law, a person can be held on an involuntary 72-hour mental health hold if the person appears to be an imminent danger to others or to himself or herself. The bill changes the standard from imminent danger to extreme risk and defines extreme risk as a credible and exigent threat of danger to themselves or others through actionable threats of violence or death as result of a current mental health state.
HB20-1271 Repeal Red Flag And Amend 72-hour Hold
edited: to add bill summaryThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Modern Day Savage,
A bill has been introduced to allow 16 year olds to vote in school board and school district elections.
The bill allows a person who is preregistered to vote in school district elections beginning at 16 years of age. A school district election is defined as an election to recall a school district officer or an election called under title 22, Colorado Revised Statutes, including elections for:
-The state board of education;
-School district officers; Referred measures to impose or increase mill levies or to raise and expend property taxes;
-Referred measures relating to the organization of or plan of representation for school districts; and
-Referred measures related to the financial obligations and indebtedness of school districts.
When a person preregisters, they must receive information concerning their eligibility to vote in school district elections and how to update their preregistration information and obtain and cast a ballot. The bill repeals the requirement that the voter information of preregistrants be kept confidential.
A preregistrant is automatically registered to vote in all elections upon turning age 18. Individuals committed to juvenile detention facilities must be given information about their right to preregister and vote in school district elections.
A preregistrant can circulate and sign petitions to nominate or recall a school district officer or to initiate an election under title 22, Colorado Revised Statutes. A preregistrant cannot run for office or be appointed to fill a vacancy. If a juvenile is charged with an election offense and no other crime is charged, the juvenile court is prohibited from transferring the charge to a district court.
For any election in which preregistrants are eligible to vote and in which the county clerk and recorder has responsibilities for the election, the state is required to reimburse the county for the direct costs associated with ballots sent to preregistrants. The school district's share of the costs of the election in a cost-sharing agreement must be reduced by the amount of the state's reimbursement.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing next week.
HB20-1149 16-year-olds Voting In School District Elections
edited: to add bill summaryThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Modern Day Savage,
Currently, county health departments have had input in whether tax-payer funded illegal drug injection needles, so called "safe injection" sites or "needle exchanges" are implemented. Note that while the term "needle exchange" is used, statistics consistently show that in cities where these programs are already in place that many more "free" needles are handed out than used ones that are turned in for safe disposal. Also note that CDC data consistently indicates that crime increases in the area where these tax payer funded needle give aways are held.
Although both Denver and Pueblo already have needle give away programs (and I think maybe Fort Collins as well) up until now, each county's Board of Health could determine whether to allow this type of program within their jurisdiction and many Colorado counties have acted to block these programs.
HB20-1065 Harm Reduction Substance Use Disorders bill was introduced by 3 Democrats and 1 Republican, and, while addressing the opioid issue, acts to supercede local Board of Health control and impose the State Board of Health standards, not to mention the injection of a huge amount of cash that may be used to fund both private and non-profit organizations to administer these needle give away programs.
Harm Reduction Substance Use Disorders Concerning measures to reduce the harm caused by substance use disorders.
Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee. The bill:
Requires a carrier that provides coverage for opiate antagonists to reimburse a hospital if the hospital provides a covered person with an opiate antagonist upon discharge ( section 1 of the bill);
Allows a pharmacist or pharmacy technician to sell a nonprescription syringe or needle to any person ( sections 2 and 5 );
Extends civil and criminal immunity for a person who acts in good faith to furnish or administer an opiate antagonist to an individual the person believes to be suffering an opiate-related drug overdose when the opiate antagonist was expired ( sections 3 and 4 );
Removes the requirement that entities first receive local board of health approval before operating a clean syringe exchange program ( sections 6 and 7 ); and
Provides that money in the harm reduction grant program cash fund is continuously appropriated to the department of public health and environment for purposes of the harm reduction grant program and establishes an annual appropriation of an amount equal to the appropriation for the 2019-20 fiscal year plus $250,000 ( section 8 ).
For a governor who claims to support local control, it will be interesting to see whether he will support this bill.
Note that the HB20-1271 Repeal Red Flag And Amend 72-hour Hold is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary committee on Thursday March 12th.
Please contact your elected reps to support this bill.
I realize that many are focused on the current national and state emergencies and restrictions, but I thought it would be a good time to update the thread.
Note that the Colorado legislature has been suspended until 30 March. I caught a recent radio interview with Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville and he was fairly certain that the suspension would be extended.
As I read it, this is a good news/ bad news issue. Good that the state legislature isn't in session to ram through any more bills...but Bad in that I think it is a fair bet that the Governor will call for a Special Session of the Legislature at some point, which means we will need to be prepared to react to proposed legislation later in the year.
Given the track record of the legislature in recent years and the Governor's inclination to both over react and politicize the current emergency I'm concerned that this emergency may provide the opportunity for the Governor and legislature to over reach in their proposed legislation, once the legislature returns.
HB20-1271 Repeal Red Flag and Amend the 72-hour Hold was defeated in committee along a party line vote.
|Gracie Allen is my |
Query: Is there a greater or lesser likelihood of people getting up in arms against radical changes if the special session (should it occur) is closer to or further away from the general elections this November? If the Dems are in a hurry, it's a sign of desperation that may come back to bite them in the elections.
One of the Democrat 2020 agenda centerpieces was introduced earlier this month.
I've already heard comments from the Governor promoting this legislation, or at least the principles behind it, while criticizing the federal emergency response and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Governor and legislature used the current emergency as an excuse to pass this legislation.
In a recent radio interview Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville commented that if this piece of legislation had already been enacted that Colorado's response to this emergency would have been significantly reduced. He seemed to suggest that parts of this legislation were particularly vulnerable to criticism given the current emergency and he felt that the Democrats were probably going to withdraw it at this time and push it at a later date...but until, and if, this legislation is withdrawn, I'd keep an eye on this one.
HB20-1349 Colorado Affordable Health Care Option
Beginning January 1, 2022, the bill requires a health insurance carrier (carrier) that offers an individual health benefit plan in this state to offer a Colorado option plan in the Colorado counties where the carrier offers the individual health benefit plan. The commissioner of insurance (commissioner) is required to develop and implement a Colorado option plan that must:
Be offered to Colorado residents who purchase health insurance in the individual market;
Implement a standardized plan that:
Allows consumers to easily compare health benefit plans; and
Provides first-dollar, predeductible coverage for certain services;
Include the essential health benefits package;
Provide different, specific levels of coverage;
Include a hospital reimbursement rate formula;
Require hospital participation;
Require a minimum medical loss ratio of 85%; and
Require carriers and pharmacy benefit management firms to pass rebate savings through to consumers and document the savings and pass-through in a form and manner determined by the commissioner.
The Colorado option advisory board (board) is created to advise and make recommendations to the commissioner on all aspects of the Colorado option plan.
The bill authorizes the commissioner to promulgate rules to develop, implement, and operate the Colorado option plan, including:
Expanding the Colorado option plan to the small group market;
Establishing a hospital reimbursement rate formula; and
Requiring carriers to offer the Colorado option plan in specific counties.
If a hospital refuses to participate in the Colorado option plan, the department of public health and environment may issue a warning, impose fines, or suspend, revoke, or impose conditions on the hospital's license.
The commissioner, in consultation with the board, is required to evaluate the Colorado option plan beginning July 1, 2024, and each year thereafter.
Note: picture and hyperlinks can be found in linked article.
Polis signed 35 bills into law last week. Here are the business ones to know about.
By Ed Sealover – Reporter, Denver Business Journal Mar 23, 2020, 10:08am EDT
Even in the midst of rolling out his first attempt at an economic-relief plan to deal with the coronavirus spread on Friday, Gov. Jared Polis found time to sign 35 bills into law Friday, including several that deal with business issues from transportation funding to antitrust law.
The business-focused bills the Democratic governor signed include:
• Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, requires the state’s High-Performance Transportation Enterprise to include more information about the execution and provisions of public-private-partnerships contracts in reports to the Legislature. The bill comes as the Colorado Department of Transportation is seeking more unsolicited proposals of this nature to discover new ways to fund major highway and transit improvements.
• Senate Bill 64, sponsored by Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, will allow the Colorado Attorney General’s office to challenge mergers and acquisitions even if they have been examined and OK’d by federal regulators. AG Phil Weiser told the Denver Business Journal that he plans to use his new powers to scrutinize health-care industry deals more closely.
• SB 32, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, removes the prohibition against grocery-store employees between the ages of 18 and 20 having contact with the beverages. It is yet another clean-up of the 2016 bill that allowed expanded alcohol sales at grocery stores.
• SB 123, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village, allows attorneys and agents to represent college athletes and to allow those athletes to receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses.
I'm disappointed, but not surprised, to report that Governor Polis signed the repeal of the Death Penalty into law today and commuted the sentences of the three convicts currently on Death Row to Life in Prison.
Note: pictures and hyperlinks can be found at the linked website article.
Governor signs bill abolishing Colorado’s death penalty, commutes sentences of state’s 3 death row inmates
Colorado becomes the 22nd state to end the use of capital punishment
MAR 23, 2020 3:53PM MDT
The Colorado Sun — firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed into law a bill abolishing Colorado’s death penalty, simultaneously commuting the sentences of the three men on the state’s death row.
Polis converted the death sentences of Nathan Dunlap, Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The governor’s decision marks one of the most significant and emotional choices he’s made since taking office in January 2019.
“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender. That is not why I am commuting these sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Polis said in a written statement. “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.”
Polis acknowledged there is disagreement among the families of victims, but added “I hope this decision provides clarity and certainty for them moving forward. The decision to commute these sentences was made to reflect what is now Colorado law, and done after a thorough outreach process to the victims and their families.”
The governor declined an interview request from The Colorado Sun.
Polis’ decision to sign death penalty bill into law wasn’t a surprise. He had vowed to do so if it reached his desk. But the commutations, while rumored to be accompanying the governor’s signing of the measure, were unexpected to the public.
At least one victim’s family on Monday expressed disappointment about the news.
18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, whose office handled the prosecution of all three death row inmates, blasted the commutations as political opportunism timed to coincide with a pandemic. He complained that neither he nor his office was consulted and that Polis should have provided, at the least, a heads up.
“There’s no rush to commute the sentences of people who have been on death row for one to two decades,” Brauchler said. “If you were looking to bury this horrendous decision, this was the best way to do it.”
Dunlap’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, applauded the commutations.
“By commuting Nathan’s death sentence to one of life without possibility of release, Gov. Polis has finally brought about a just and fair end to more than a quarter century of legal proceedings in this case,” she said in a written statement. “We know that the families of Nathan’s victims have a range of views about the death penalty and about his sentence. We respect all of their positions and we will always be deeply saddened by the pain and loss they have endured. We do hope, however, that today’s decision allows them to find some sense of closure, and that the future brings them peace and healing.”
Monday was deadline for Polis to sign bill
Polis signed the death penalty repeal measure in private, given the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Colorado is now the 22nd state to eliminate capital punishment.
Monday was the deadline by which he had to either sign the measure, veto it or send it to the Colorado secretary of state to become law without his signature.
The General Assembly took an unusually long time to send the bill to Polis. Legislative leadership said they held onto the measure to give the governor enough time to talk to victims’ families before signing the measure, which he had said since last year that he would do.
“There are a lot of people reaching out to the governor right now,” House Speaker KC Becker said earlier this month about the delay.
The legislation passed the Colorado General Assembly last month with bipartisan support, but opposition to the bill — while not enough to stop its passage — was both fierce and emotional.
Two Democrats, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Rep. Tom Sullivan, vehemently opposed the repeal. Fields’ son and his fiancée were killed by Ray and Owens.
Sullivan’s son was murdered during the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to sentence the gunman to death.
“It’s just hard for me to describe how I’m feeling,” Rhonda Fields said Monday. “I feel like justice was just hijacked after years and years of court proceedings. Here we are with the stroke of a pen the governor just sweeps it away.”
The death row inmates’ crimes
Dunlap, who was sentenced to be executed in 1996, has spent the most time on death row of any inmate in modern Colorado history. He exhausted the last appeal he is legally guaranteed more than seven years ago.
On Monday, Cohen, who has represented Dunlap for 15 years, said she had been able to speak with him about the governor’s commutation — though not in person because of visitor restrictions at Colorado prisons due to the new coronavirus. She said Dunlap was “relieved and grateful.”
Three of the people Dunlap murdered in 1993 were teenagers, working the closing shift at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, and their families have now spent many more years navigating the case’s legal proceedings than they got with their loved ones. Last summer, the mother of Sylvia Crowell, one of the victims, died with Dunlap’s sentence still in limbo. Crowell’s father died the year prior.
The cases of Ray and Owens are still going through the appellate process. They were sentenced to die for their roles in killing Javad Marshall Fields and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe, in 2005.
Javad Marshall Fields was a witness to another fatal shooting and was targeted because he was set to testify in that case.
Rhonda Fields said she had been in contact with the governor about his decision and that she knew it was coming. Her daughter, Maisha, said the commutations swept away everything they went through with Owens’ and Ray’s trials.
“When we finished the trial we were told this was finite,” Maisha Fields said Monday. “We were told: ‘This is the end. This is what justice looks like.’ Justice was kidnapped from us.”
Ray’s attorney, Mary Claire Mulligan, said the commutations have “brought about an end to more than a decade of legal proceedings over this cruel and archaic sentence. We hope that today’s decision allows the Fields and Wolfe families to find some sense of closure, and that the future brings them peace and healing.”
Owens’ attorneys, Jim Castle and Jonathan Reppucci, said they were relieved for their client and offered thoughts and prayers to the victims of violent crimes.
“We are especially proud of Gov. Polis for his leadership and willingness to make the hard but just decision to finally close the chapter and turn the page on capital punishment in our state,” they said in a statement.
Brauchler said neither Polis nor anyone from the governor’s office reached out to him on the capital cases.
“Not one time,” he said. “I got, like, two-hours notice.”
Owens and Ray did not file for clemency, but Dunlap had in the past. Brauchler believes the law required Polis to consult with him before commuting Dunlap’s sentence, but now that the decision has been made it’s too late.
Brauchler also blasted the legislature for adding what’s called a “safety clause” into Senate Bill 100, which prevents opponents of legislation from asking voters to halt a measure from going into effect. There has been talk of a ballot measure to reinstate capital punishment in Colorado.
Pending cases can still result in death penalty
Polis didn’t have to commute the sentences of the death row inmates. Senate Bill 100 is not retroactive and thus doesn’t affect their cases.
He suggested last year that he would commute their sentences if the legislature sent him a bill repealing the death penalty.
But recently, Polis had said the cases were not ripe for review because he hadn’t received clemency requests for Dunlap, Ray or Owens. He also said he would weigh each case on its individual merits.
Polis, however, had the power to remove their death penalty sentences at any time. And on Monday he put that authority to use.
The last person Colorado put to death was Gary Lee Davis, who was executed in 1997 for kidnapping, raping and murdering a woman in Adams County.
Prosecutors in Arapahoe, Denver and El Paso counties have in recent years sought capital punishment in a handful of cases, but juries rejected their efforts. Not since June 2009, when Ray was sentenced, has a Colorado jury signed off on death.
There are multiple pending death penalty cases and potential death penalty cases in Colorado, including against admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. and Dreion Dearing, who is accused of fatally shooting Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm.
Jury selection is underway in the Dearing case.
Those cases can still continue because Senate Bill 100 makes defendants ineligible for capital punishment only if they are charged on or after July 1, 2020.
It’s not clear how or if Polis’ decision to commute the sentences of Ray, Owens or Dunlap would affect those cases.
Brauchler said his office currently has murder cases in which he could potentially seek capital punishment. He said he won’t be deterred by Polis’ commutations.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Modern Day Savage,
That's an interesting question and I took a little time to consider it before replying...the simple truth is that there are arguments for both schools of thought and no way to know how people will react to legislative over reach...and one of the Wild Cards in all of this is this current emergency and panic.
I've been encountering difficulty in getting voters, and gun owners, energized enough to react to the over reach attempts before the current COVID-19 panic and Shelter in Place orders, and my honest assessment is that voters are far more concerned and focused (currently) on hunkering down and surviving this pandemic than picking up their heads and paying attention to legislative agendas...that's not to say there aren't any of us doing so, but probably not many.
The longer this panic and Shelter in Place nonsense continues, the worse the situation gets, and the less likely the voters will pay attention to proposed legislation and over reach. It's probably the jaded cynic in me, but it wouldn't surprise me if Democrat leaders even counted on this panic to serve as a distraction to obscure their attempts.
I hope I'm wrong, but I think, even should the panic die down and 'life as usual' quickly returns, that the 'burn out' factor will kick in and drain 'energy' from any organized resistance to proposed legislation.
Although there are a slew of bad laws and bad proposed bills that should have voters and tax payers outraged already, the one single law that seemed to unite both Democrat and Republican voters in opposition to it was the National Popular Vote (NPV- enacted in 2019 against strong opposition) and a petition to place the removal of the law on the 2020 state ballot was successfully circulated.
So, the question is, will the current panic damage, what has been one of the strongest state economies in the U.S. in recent years, to the point where virus outbreak response, jobs and the economy and any stimulus become the key focus of the legislature and whether they hijack the opportunity to throw in a bunch of other bad bills while the voters are otherwise distracted, OR, whether voters will ride the wave of their outrage over the NPV to the ballot box.
I'm not so sure about this point. The Democrat controlled legislature and Governor have been ramming bad bills through for the last two sessions so I don't read it as "desperation" but simply a single-minded focus on hammering their agenda into law and they won't squander a single day, a single hour, that they are in control to force their vision on Coloradoans (whether we like it or not). The quicker they can pass one law the sooner they can 'machine gun' the next piece of bad legislation into committee..."making hay while the sun shines" so to speak.
A Special Legislative Session opens the door to a lot of potential abuse...but are the Dems willing to ram over reach through so close to both a state and national election? If the panic subsides and life returns to normal, I'm betting they will continue their over reach in any Special Session...if the pandemic panic and Shelter in Place continue later into the Spring or Summer then I would bet they will limit the focus of any Special Session to this issue, at least until after the elections.
Thanks for asking a very interesting and pertinent question!
Earlier in the day, Arapahoe, Adam, Douglas, and Jefferson counties declared county wide Stay at Home orders, however among the jobs/ businesses that were classified as "Essential" and exempted from the order were licensed gun stores and ammo retailers.
However, Governor Polis just issued a state-wide Stay at Home order that will go into effect tomorrow 26 March and continue through 11 April. At this time I have no info on how this order will affect those two businesses.
Interestingly, during his press conference, when asked about what data he reviewed before deciding to issue the order, Governor Polis mentioned both health data that indicated that Colorado now has 1000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, as well as meta data from people's cell phones that indicated that some were leaving their homes and travelling about. I heard another source say that traffic cam data was used.
My question would be how the Governor's office determined that those moving about were not doing so for exempted activities or for activities classified as "Essential"?
I was listening to Stephen Tubbs yesterday, he had a couple of sheriffs on, they weren't notified of Polis' order until after it was issued.
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