Across the country, support for the death penalty is waning, and Colorado is among 11 states that have proposed bills to abolish capital punishment in 2009. This week, New Mexico became the second state to abolish the death penalty since 1976.
Signing the bill to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico was “the most difficult decision of my political life” Gov. Bill Richardson reportedly said Wednesday shortly after 6 p.m. Richardson, once a strong supporter of capital punishment, did not finally decide to sign House Bill 285 until after a visit to the state penitentiary. But Richardson says he is still uncertain whether he’s for or against the death penalty — and whether he made the correct decision.
Colorado is one of 36 states that puts the worst of the worst to death, although the actual act of execution is rare. In the past four decades, Colorado has only put to death one person – rapist-murderer Gary Lee Davis, who kidnapped his victim in front of her children, died by injection in 1997.
The current Colorado legislature is considering a bill which would eliminate the death penalty. Colorado HB09-1274 would eliminate capital punishment and redirect the money saved by the state to investigation of “cold cases.” Experts estimate that court battles in death penalty cases can reach several million dollars. Proponents of the measure argue that the financial and emotional costs for families, jurors, attorneys, and judges are too high a price in difficult economic times. More sensible spending of the estimated $4 million dollars annually that Colorado uses on the death penalty is an investment in decreasing potential crimes from undetected perpetrators.
Governor Bill Ritter unsuccessfully sought the death penalty seven times as Denver’s District Attorney, and his spokesman said he supports capital punishment. But Ritter has declined, through a spokesman, to comment on pending legislation.