Colorado Continues Death Penalty With Legislators Evenly Split on Repeal

A bill to repeal the death penalty and use the funds saved to investigate unsolved murder cases in Colorado was defeated in the state senate by a vote of 18-17 on May 6. The House had earlier approved the bill by a vote of 33-32. On May 4, the senate had approved an amendment, dropping the repeal of the death penalty and funding the cost of investigating cold cases through a $2.50 fine to convicted felons. However, the conference committee restored the repeal provision and the senate rejected the committee’s proposal after an impassioned debate. The repeal bill’s co-sponsor, Senator Morgan Carroll, expressed concerns about the risks of the death penalty, including executing the innocent. “In a democracy,” she said, “the decisions of the state come with blood on all of our hands in the event that we are wrong.” In all, 50 legislators voted for repeal, and 50 voted against repeal.

Concerns over the cost of the death penalty, which have risen with state budget shortfalls, have been voiced in other states as well. The Republican sponsor of a death penalty repeal proposal in Kansas specifically cited the cost-benefit analysis in tough economic times as a reason for reconsidering capital punishment. Governor Bill Richardson also cited cost as part of his reason for signing New Mexico’s repeal measure.

(K. Johnson, “Death Penalty Repeal Fails in Colorado,” N.Y. Times, May 5, 2009; “Bid to repeal death penalty fails in Senate,” Denver Post, May 6, 2009). See Recent Legislation and Costs.