Colorado Democrats Drop Effort To Repeal Death Penalty

Originally published on April 2, 2019 3:28 pm

Colorado Democrats have tabled their effort to repeal the death penalty after some members of their own party expressed concerns about the bill.

The proposal was stuck in limbo for more than two weeks as State Sen. Angela Williams tried to secure the votes the bill needed to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 19-16 majority.

Williams said four senators wouldn’t pledge their support for the bill. So the sponsors decided this week to table it.

“I don’t think it was a good use of our time to keep delaying this when I couldn’t shake it apart to get the votes that we needed,” said Williams. “When you get to a stalemate in this process, you’ve got to be a stateswoman and you’ve got to make some decisions on this and that’s what I did.”

Sen. Rhonda Fields was one of the Democrats who opposed the repeal. She thinks the death penalty is a valuable tool that can help police solve crimes and find hidden murder victims.

The issue is also personal for her.

Two of the three men who are currently sitting on Colorado’s death row are there because they murdered Fields’ son, Javad.

“I believe the people should have a say (over whether to repeal the death penalty) and it shouldn’t just be up to elected officials under this gold dome,” Fields said.

She said the focus on the death penalty was a distraction from other legislative issues she thinks are more pressing.

“I think the focus should on working upstream, to avoid people from ever even entering into our criminal justice system,” Fields said. “Let’s get back to that.”

Calling the death penalty “barbaric,” Williams said she plans to bring the bill back next year. She also criticized lawmakers who didn’t take a stand publicly on the issue.

“This is a progressive issue, so I’m extremely disappointed in legislators who are not able to determine where they are and take the tough votes, because that’s what we’re elected to do,” she said. “We’re elected to take tough votes.”

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Eleven public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

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