EDITORIAL: Hickenlooper should do the right thing in death penalty flap after making the right call on Dunlap execution 

Hickenlooper should draw on the courage he needed to make this decision last year to fight the good fight against capital punishment during the current election battle, even if being on the right side of this issue just may not be the right thing to do to win a second term

You don’t have to be a political consultant to see where Gov. John Hickenlooper’s controversial death penalty decision last year was going to resurface.

It’s back, and it’s important to the election and Colorado’s future.

21894_600This week, news leaked out that CNN is going to release an interview with Hickenlooper. Part of that interview covers his decision on May 2013 to set aside the imminent death sentence of convicted Aurora Chuck E. Cheeses murderer Nathan Dunlap. Since Hickenlooper’s now running for re-election to his second term, his political foes have jumped at the chance to try and gain ground from the issue. It’s been a ticking political bomb since he took the high road on Colorado’s flailing death penalty, explaining, albeit clumsily, what most of the rest of the world already knows:

— The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. This has been substantiated in numerous studies numerous times. Murder is almost always the result of severe psychological illness, drugs, alcohol or passion. None of those causes are affected by executions or any other laws.

— The death penalty is not equally or fairly applied in Colorado, or anywhere in the country. Murder for murder, it is a far greater percentage of poor minorities who are handed the death penalty than richer, whiter murderers. And in Colorado, every person on death row got there from an Arapahoe County court, even though murder cases arise across the state. Had Dunlap committed his sadistic crime anywhere but in Aurora, he would have been given life without parole.

— The death penalty is obscenely expensive. A recent study of the death penalty in Maryland shows that it costs about $3 million to bring a death penalty convict to the death chamber. The same capital case without the threat of death penalty costs about $1 million, according to the study. Death penalty states have spent billions of dollars on capital punishment systems since they were re-authorized in 1978.

— Even for those who have no qualms about killing people back for their crimes, the death penalty is ineffective because it simply takes so long to invoke. Not long ago, the average death sentence was 28 years, now down to about 18 years. A full 25 percent of capital punishment cases still die of natural causes before they make it to the death chamber. Dunlap killed four employees of the Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993. It took 20 years to pull a date for his execution last year.

These are just some of the arguments that have prompted 18 states to end death sentences, and many others have stopped the practice defacto by using postponements.

Hickenlooper took a gamble last year that state lawmakers or others might strike Colorado’s death penalty, making his “temporary” reprieve for Dunlap a moot case. That didn’t happen, and now Hickenlooper is ripe for a political flogging because he’s on the right side of doing the right thing. Of course the governor would grant Dunlap clemency on his way out if he’s not re-elected, or he would do it in four years at the end of a second term, if Colorado doesn’t end the death penalty first.

His only mistake was to not force the issue into the political arena so voters can learn that the emotional decision to keep Colorado’s death penalty fails under the weight of the logical and practical arguments to end it. It is indisputable that the death penalty is nothing more than revenge killing, something beneath 18 states and almost all of the civilized nations. Hickenlooper should draw on the courage he needed to make this decision last year to fight the good fight against capital punishment during the current election battle, even if being on the right side of this issue just may not be the right thing to do to win a second term.

  • Chris Castillo

    I am against the death penalty, despite the fact that my
    mother was murdered in Houston in 1991. The killers fled the U.S. and the case is unsolved.

    People should pay for the crimes they commit, but I don’t
    think vengeance and state sanctioned killing is the answer. With Life in Prison without the possibility of parole, we have another choice.

    I choose to remember my mother as she was, and not just how
    she died. I choose take control of my life. I will not let anyone make me live in fear or in a state of anger. My mother won’t have wanted that.

    Anger and hatred are a normal reaction to pain, but we don’t
    have to give in to those feelings. We aren’t animals.

    Many murder victim family members suffer through trial after
    trail and appeal after appeal, waiting for some conclusion of a case that represents the capital murder of their loved one. Unfortunately, it is common for people to stay on death row for decades as the appeals process plays out. All that time the family is suffering and waiting for an end to their case.

    Life without the possibility of parole is a way to end cases
    quicker. This is a civilized answer to an uncivilized act.

    • FirefighterCO

      So where is their repayment of debt to humanity? We feed, cloth, shelter and sub-stain their life until natural death occurs? How do the convicted pay back the debt to society without hard labor to society? I can accept death or Hard labor. Can Dunlap and the progressive left?

    • Brian Mcfarlane

      Not exactly – on the life sentence being quicker. Most of the time that a suspect confesses is to avoid the death penalty and take a plea and getting life. Prosecutors having the death penalty as a bargaining chip brings many “pleas” for life in prison.

    • Jon_Amendall

      Indeed we are not animals. Animals do not have a sense or a system of justice. State-sanctioned executions differ from vengeance in that it is the proper role of the state to administer justice. Individuals acting as vigilantes are more appropriately described as seeking vengeance, as they act outside the duly elected representative justice process.

  • bwm38

    He was convicted, and sentenced. Let the sentence be carried out.

  • aurorabo

    Beheading would be the proper ending to this

    • davebarnes

      The US Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Not going to happen.

      • MR2

        Then explain why Nancy Pelosi keeps getting elected?

  • Jason Joseph

    I love it when the left says capital punishment is not a deterrent. It 100% deters the condemned from ever committing a violent crime again. People escape from prison in this country and some have gone and killed while on the lamb. Not to mention other inmates and gaurds are assaulted as well. A setence is a punishment for the convicted, deterrence is secondary. By the Sentinal’s logic, life inmprisonment is not a deterrent either, so maybe we should just let all of the convicted murders go.

    • John

      I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you.

    • Guest

      Spelchek is gud 4 u righting! Or, setece the gaurd lamb, you Sentinals!

  • Brian Mcfarlane

    Hick made no decision other than making a decision not to make a decision. He should give clemency now, before the election or stick to his “decision” to leave it to the next governor to decide.

  • TheLastPlainsman

    I used to go to that Chuck E Cheese in high school. This guy is a worthless human being. Too bad they didn’t give you a little more of his background, like the other robberies he committed and his gang affiliation.
    To bad he can’t fry.

  • Kevin Snyder

    The death penalty is INDEED a deterrent to crime. No executed person has ever re-offended.

  • Burp

    Ya gotta love how they tell Lickenpooper to take a stand even if it costs him the election. He lied about his views on the death penalty before the first election in order to get in office. He’s a spineless pansy and won’t ever change.

  • Burp

    The folks who are wholly against the death penalty are almost always all in for abortion. Kill innocent life but make sure to let evil live off the taxpayer for life.

    • Grace656

      Yea, I was thinking, just call these murderers fetuses and all will be well. You’d even be able to cheaply suck our their brains, with no painkillers, and toss them into medical trash. Consider it a late term abortion.

  • Babblin

    If there is absolute proof of a murder just save the tax payers the money of housing, medical, etc… And, of the appeal after appeal cost – take ’em out back and blow their fool head off! I am tired of this issue that criminals good, unborn babies bad! Did Dunlap give a second thought to his victims? Hell no!

    • Guest

      Jah, und ze Hell vith zis “Konstitution”! It gets in zee vay of ze Justice, jah?

  • Rev. Wayne A. Laws

    No doubt, repealing or keeping the death penalty is a highly emotional issue. However, as you point out it, it is not a deterrent to crime, it is extremely costly to the taxpayers, it is not applied consistently, and it takes decades to move through the court system. Throughout the long and costly process, the victims have to relive the crime over and over without coming to closure. Putting the emotional argument to the side, the facts against capital punishment overwhelmingly outweigh the perceived need for revenge or an “eye for an eye” justice.

    It is often argued that it is necessary to have this form of punishment for the worst of the worst crimes, however you cannot really determine where that line is drawn, it becomes an arbitrary process unevenly applied. In addition, spending millions of dollars on executing one person is waste of our tax dollars. We should be focusing our efforts, time, and money on better priorities such as prevention and victim assistance. It is time end the broken death penalty system! My sincere hope is that Colorado becomes number 19 in states to repeal.

    Rev. Wayne A. Laws

  • Frank2525

    Many here and before have made the case for death penalty. It does work, regardless of how Liberals cook the books. Name one person who was put to death, who ever killed another person, robbed anyone else, or attacked a prison guard, or other convicts. We only have so many years to live in this body, and will die of old age, or being killed by people like Dunlap. And the families of Dunlap or the victims of Dunlap do not have closure. I have had 2 grandchildren die (one at 46 hours of life) (other at 10 years of age-asthma) which is unfair, but life as normal. If Dunlap had killed one of my children or grandchildren, I would him punished. If not, (he is living every day with 3 hots and a cot) with guards having to be careful around him and others, I would want him on the streets, where he would never know when, or where, or how I would find him. You can scream at me with your puny liberal rag paper, but that is my feeling and opinion. I am not a religious fanatic, but my religion (and bible) teach me an eye for an eye, and I can forget anything but a grudge. I am very pragmatic, growing up on farm, then being military for years, but a father, grandfather. And I would have on compunctions about Dunlap’s death.

  • Frank2525

    One other comment: Gov. Hickenlooper has been a very large disappointment to me and lost any future vote from me with Dunlap decision. Also with his waffling over frocking. And also both Senators lost any possible vote from me with clincher coming when both voted Democratic ticket to allow U.N. (Res: 1117) to control taking our small guns , light weapons and ammunition. Other reasons, but those are clinchers, and I expect many others will also vote accordingly.

  • mfrazee29

    Would James Holmes have committed his crime had Nathan Dunlap been executed within a reasonable time without 20 years of redundant and ridiculous appeals that only lined the pockets of lawyers with taxpayer money? If justice was upheld in a timely manner, I think Mr. Holmes may have had second thoughts but his odds were pretty good at avoiding the death penalty in this state at any rate. At least we know there was no deterrent for him.