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Mar 18, 2013 8:49 PM by Andy Koen

State lawmakers to consider death penalty repeal

DENVER - State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would repeal the death penalty in Colorado. House Bill 1264 would replace all current death penalty sentences to life without parole. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the bill later this week.

State Senator Lucia Guzman, (D) Denver, sponsored the bill in the Senate. She says the punishment is unevenly applied from courtroom to courtroom.

"The decisions that are made by DA's across the state vary a great deal," Guzman said.

Furthermore, she believes the lengthy and expensive appeals process have made the death sentence unnecessary.

"It's not fair to the families; they're not able to bring closure in that sense," Guzman said.

However, State Representative Rhonda Fields, (D) Aurora, disagrees. Two of the three men currently on death row, Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens, were convicted of murdering her son in 2005 to keep him from testifying at a murder trial.

"I think now is just not the time," Fields said.

She believes repealing the death penalty sends the wrong message, particularly as prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek that punishment for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes.

"By us running this legislation really interferes with his ability to seek justice on behalf of those family members," Rep. Fields said.

If the bill becomes law, it would mark the second time in state history that Colorado has abolished capital punishment. The first time was in the 1960's.

The only person to be executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 was Gary Lee Davis, a convicted murderer and rapist. He died by lethal injection in 1997.

The third death row inmate, Nathan Dunlap, was convicted of the 1993 massacre at an Aurora Chuck E Cheese restaurant. Dunlap has exhausted all of his appeals but an execution date has yet to be scheduled.

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