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April 16, 2009

Colorado legislature moving toward death penalty repeal and additions sentencing reforms

As detailed in this Denver Post article, headlined "House backs death-penalty demise: Another vote is needed before the Senate gets the bill, which would use the money saved to solve cold cases," the Colorado legislature is moving forward on a death penalty repeal proposal.  In addition, some other sentencing reforms all also moving forward with cost issues front and center. Here are a few particulars:

Colorado's death penalty took one step toward the grave Wednesday as lawmakers in the state House gave initial approval to a bill that would end capital punishment and use the savings to solve cold cases. House Bill 1274 progresses as lawmakers prepare to take up a proposal next week that would drastically cut sentences for nonviolent, drug and property offenses and end jail time altogether for some offenders.

Both plans have earned the ire of district attorneys, who argue that such changes will encourage crime and make it more difficult to properly punish the most heinous criminals. Five Democrats stood with the Republican caucus in opposing HB 1274, though it wasn't enough to kill the legislation.

House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, the bill's sponsor, isn't celebrating yet, saying the final role call vote on the bill will pose a tough hurdle. He's pitching the legislation as a way to save state money and make streets safer by helping to clear some of Colorado's 1,400-plus unsolved murder cases.

"You can debate all day long the morality of the death penalty. You'll never resolve it," said Weissmann, D-Louisville. "Any other part of government that spent this much money and was so rarely used would be one of the first things we set out to cut." Colorado has executed one person in four decades and has two more murderers on death row.

The bill's opponents argued that without the death penalty, there would be no checks on inmates already sentenced to life who might kill guards or other inmates, or order killings from prison. Some critics, like Democratic Rep. Edward Casso of Thornton, said capital punishment is one of a handful of issues voters should decide directly.

Legislative analysts estimate the bill could save Colorado about $800,000 a year and put $883,000 a year toward solving cold-case murders.

Meanwhile, the bill to overhaul Colorado's sentencing scheme is also being pitched as a way to save millions of dollars by putting fewer people in prison for shorter durations. Proponents say treatment and probation get better results than jail time for low-level offenders.

April 16, 2009 at 09:47 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"The bill's opponents argued that without the death penalty, there would be no checks on inmates already sentenced to life who might kill guards or other inmates."

If this is their main concern, then make it a separate offense to: a) knowingly b) commit a homicide c) in a prison d) while confined in that prison under a life sentence. Then make that offense the only statute that is death-eligible. That should take care of the opponent’s concern, while also eliminating the death penalty in all other cases.

I personally am against the death penalty in all cases, but if this would quell the opposition to the bill, then it’s worth it.

Posted by: DEJ | Apr 16, 2009 1:08:42 PM

DEJ: LWOP gives absolute immunity for all subsequent murders and promotes murder as a remedy for the murderer in dealing with anyone who crosses or frustrates him. The murderer has a license to kill, with less accountability than 007.

Not a word about victims.

I again challenge the lawyer to a game. Try to utter the V word. None can do that. The murderer generates lawyer jobs, for the criminal cult enterprise. The V word may rot.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 16, 2009 8:06:41 PM

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