Colorado becomes 22nd U.S. state to abolish death penalty

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DENVER (KKTV) - Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill into law repealing the state's death penalty on Monday.

The law applies to offenses charged starting July 1. On top of signing the bill, the governor also commuted the sentences of all three men on Colorado's death row.

The three commuted include:
Nathan Dunlap: Concivted of killing four people in Aurora at a Chuck E. Cheese.

Sir Mario Owens: Convicted in 2005 for two murders.

Robery Ray: Planned the murder of two people who witnessed a separate murder he was convicted of.

18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said he had learned the governor was signing the bills just hours before Gov. Polis put pen to paper. Brauchler's predecessors handled the cases of all three men commuted.

"Unlike the signing of the death penalty repeal bill, there was no urgency to commuting the sentences of these murderers of multiple Coloradans; combined, they have murdered seven innocent people," 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler stated in a release. "The decision to do it during a global pandemic is disrespectful to the victims, the jurors and the public. It is not leadership, but weakness and political opportunism."

Brauchler cited Colorado Revised Statute 16-17-102. District Attorney Brauchler noted in a release the statute, "makes clear that the governor must submit any application for commutation to the district attorney and make efforts to seek the comments of the actual prosecutors from the criminal case before approving such application." Brauchler says the governor did not reach out to him or any members of his team.

"The decision to pass and sign the death penalty repeal bill should bring a smile to the faces of future serial killers, terrorists, cop killers, mass murderers, child killers, and those in prison who decide to kill again," Brauchler added in the statement sent out by his office.

To date, the Governor has granted clemency to eleven individuals, which includes six commutations and five pardons.

“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. 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,” said Governor Jared Polis, echoing the Executive Orders. “While I understand that some victims agree with my decision and others disagree, 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.”

Colorado's last execution was in 1997. Colorado has become the 22nd U.S. state to abolish the death penalty.