Senate and House Sponsors, faith leaders, and supporters gathered today in the Colorado State Capitol for a press conference

March 6, 2019

Denver, CO Senate and House Democrats held a press conference in the State Capitol to unveil legislation to abolish the death penalty in Colorado.

Throughout Colorado’s history with capital punishment, it has been applied unevenly and arbitrarily, with factors like race often playing a far larger role in who receives the death penalty than merely the specifics of the crime. Additionally, the complex legal costs associated with the death penalty make it far more expensive than any other alternative, oftentimes costing 10-20 times more than a life in prison.

The Colorado legislature has debated similar legislation four times over the last two decades. SB-182 would finally abolish the death penalty in Colorado, but would not change the status of the individuals currently on death row.

“As a woman of color and a mother, the disproportionate impact of the death penalty on people of color has always been troubling to me,” said Senator Williams (D-Denver). “I understand how contentious this issue can be, but at the end of the day, I believe abolishing the death penalty is the right thing to do — and will save our state extensive costs in the future.”

“Our criminal justice system demonstrates racial bias at every step of the process, from the point of arrest all the way through to the point of executions for heinous crimes. However, over 150 people have been exonerated after being sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit,” said Senator Gonzales (D-Denver). “The death penalty is irrevocable, cruel, an unusual practice, and we should abolish it.”

“We believe, as Pope Francis has recently clarified, that the death penalty is no longer admissible and we are called to work for its abolition worldwide. The state of Colorado has other means available to exact justice and render the criminal unable to do harm,” said Auxiliary Bishop Rodriguez.

“It is outrageous because although 6 percent of the population is comprised of African Americans, we are not 6 percent of those on death row,” said Reverend Patrick Demmer, Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance. “We are 100 percent of those on death row. It is outrageous, it is unbelievable and it is unconscionable. Something must be wrong with Lady Justice – there must be a hole in her blindfold because she can see people who are my color.”

“After the murder [of my mother], the sheriff urged prosecutors to seek the death penalty. I am thankful that it was not sought, as the finality of death would have impugned my ability to seek out answers to questions that I had. While there are human beings who have committed senseless crimes, they should not be defined by their worse acts,” said Ezra Alden, the son of a victim who was murdered.

Representatives Jeni Arndt (D-Fort Collins) and Adrienne Benavidez (D-Adams County) were also present at the press conference, and offered the following comments after its conclusion:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime,” said Representative Jeni Arndt. “This is a moral issue for me and I think it’s time we join the ranks of the over one hundred countries who have already outlawed capital punishment.”

“Since 1973, there have been 164 people exonerated from death row. Even one potentially innocent person on death row is too much,” said Representative Adrienne Benavidez. “The death penalty is such a final and permanent decision that cannot be reversed.”

To learn more about SB-182, please visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-182.

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