When it comes down to it, ending Colorado’s death penalty is about being honest, mostly with ourselves.
Most of those who are fighting against this newest attempt by state lawmakers to end capital punishment are peddling the same age-old mythologies and fiction. They’re clench-fisted over tales that have evaporated in most sophisticated nations and in an increasing number of American states.
Colorado should be next. It could be. Control of the state House, Senate and governor’s office by anti-death-penalty lawmakers can finally move past a minority of obstructionists and end this pointless and brutal practice.
You’ve heard the mythologies here. In fact, the chances are good that you’ve even repeated them in good faith or bad.
The oldest wives’ tale is that the death penalty prevents crime. It’s a big, big lie. Reputable study after reputable study have consistently shown that states without death penalties have the same or lower murder rates as those that do kill convicts. Crime experts and police chiefs alike consistently say that the death penalty does not prevent crime.
You don’t have to be an immersed sociologist to see why. People who don’t murder others are the ones impressed by punitive laws. Murderers? Nope. Not only do they not think like law-abiding, sane people, if they did, they’d know that the death penalty comes due very far off, and often not at all.
Colorado’s ACLU points out on a new website dedicated to this current Colorado repeal effort that after 8,100 murders in Colorado since 1967, only one person has been executed. Only a few have ever been sentenced to death row. The crime prevention argument is a ruse.
If you don’t care about that, and you believe that the death penalty is just, you’re just way wrong.
The honest truth is that right now only the state’s minorities, and usually those who are the poorest, get sentenced to death. Of the hundreds of ghastly murders convicted all across Colorado over the past few years, only those convicted in an Arapahoe County court for murders committed in Aurora have been sentenced to death.
Honestly, does that sound just to you?
It doesn’t mean that Chuck E. Cheese’s murderer Jason Dunlap didn’t deserved just as harsh a punishment as any other killer. But it’s hard to argue that Weld County monster Christopher Watts doesn’t also deserve the death penalty for the unthinkable crimes he committed murdering his wife and two daughters last year. This week, a national TV show interview with case lawyers revealed gruesome details about a conversation Watts had with his daughter moments before he murdered her.
“Please daddy, do not do to me what you just did to Cee Cee,” his 4-year-old daughter said while pleading with her father before he killed her.
In Colorado, the death penalty is more about where murder is committed, and whether the murderer is a minority, than about the crime itself.
More? We make mistakes in the justice system — lots of them. Since 1976, there have been at least 156 death-row exonerations after it turned out cops got the wrong guy. No kidding. And about 40 of the executions carried out since 1976 were likely imposed on the wrong person. You can only hope you won’t be one of them. And if you’re poor and ethnic, hope harder.
The myths and fictions are thick with the death penalty in Colorado. It does not provide an effective bargaining chip for prosecutors trying to make plea deals. Set aside how repugnantly unethical such a practice is to begin with. Police from all over the country sniff at the claim, saying they see nothing but extra work when a DA invokes the death penalty.
And if you believe that we’ve made the practice of murdering criminals nice and neat and clean, the ACLU is dispelling that lie, too. It’s ugly torture before the convict dies. And recent research shows it takes a huge toll on those who must deal with the legal and prison details of killing a human, whether he or she wants to die for their crimes.
Honestly, the barbarism of carrying out the death penalty is matched only by the heinous crimes that get these convicts onto death row.
And then there’s the money. Everyone, pro and con, agrees that the death penalty is fantastically expensive. Millions and millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on a handful of cases that never even deliver what they promise: executions.
In Colorado, even if officials all agreed to snuff the Aurora murderers now on death row, they couldn’t. The drugs needed to kill these men under state law are unavailable and not exchangeable. It would take an act of a disgusted general assembly to make it happen. It’s not going to happen.
I sympathize with families of murder victims who have every right to demand the death of those who killed their friends and family.
Honestly, however, they, nor anyone can have the right to actually carry that out. Drawing the line on murdering people for any and all reasons is the very essence of our humanity.
By allowing Colorado’s useless and depraved death penalty to remain on the books is no different than keeping around the cadavers of those executed to remind us how base we once were.
Honestly, that’s not what Colorado is any more. Change the law by passing Senate Bill 182 to reflect how far we’ve come.