CO Keeps Death Penalty

Mar 27th @ 6:44 am in News by Scott Staley

Daily Sentinel

This story comes from the GJ Daily Sentinel

By Charles Ashby
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DENVER — A week ago, the votes to repeal the state’s death penalty were in place in the House Judiciary Committee.

But when Gov. John Hickenlooper mentioned a possible veto of the idea a few days later, enough legislators decided, well, maybe the votes weren’t there to repeal the death penalty.

As a result, a bill doing just that died on a 6-4 vote Tuesday, with two Democrats joining Republicans on the panel opposing it.

“I believe we should repeal the death penalty, but the governor’s comments made me realize maybe we have to step back,” said Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, one of the two Democrats who voted against HB1264. “We’ve done a lot this session, and I’m quite confident the majority of the people are with us on the things we’ve done. On this? I’m not sure.”

The other Democrat, freshman Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, said she agreed with Court and Hickenlooper, but that’s not the only reason why she voted against the bill.

“My constituents don’t support this,” she said. “We have a lot of work and conversations to have on this. With the shootings in Aurora and the recent tragedies in Colorado, this is a very difficult issue and a personal one. There needs to be much more conversation.”

The bill underwent more than nine hours of testimony only a week ago in the committee when its chairman Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, abruptly delayed a vote on it.

Kagan said he did so because the hour was late and he wanted committee members to be rested before casting a vote.

At the time, though, Kagan was under fire from Republicans, who said that testimony was unfair because he had allowed proponents of the bill to monopolize most of the first five and a half hours, making several opponents, including numerous district attorneys from around the state, wait until late in the evening to speak.

A few days later, Hickenlooper addressed a caucus luncheon with Democrats, where he expressed his reservations about the bill introduced by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Denver, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.

Regardless of those reservations, Levy and other Democrats said they still wanted to go forward.

“Our job in the Legislature is to pass good policy,” Melton said. “By repealing this, we would be passing good policy. It’s the right thing to do. It is an ineffective practice, an arbitrary practice and a failed policy.”

Today, the House Local Government Committee is to hear a similar measure, but one that would put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

But the sponsor of that measure, Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said she only introduced her bill as an alternative to outright appeal, saying she supports the death penalty and believes the voters do, too.

She’s expected to kill her own measure as a result.