Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Death Penalty Update: Colorado

As noted by my friend, Daniel (who lives in CO when home from his mission work in the Bahamas), yesterday the Colorado Houe of Reps. narrowly passed legislation to repeal the death penalty.  From here the bill goes to the CO senate and, if it passes there, to Gov. Ritter (D-CO) who has not said whether or not he will sign the bill.  Ritter is a former prosecutor who has always supported the death penalty, but he is also a devout Catholic and in the last several decades the Catholic Church has shown strong opposition to the death penalty. (This is not the church’s traditional stance.) So much so is this the case that studies have shown that the more frequently American Catholics go to mass, the more likely they are to oppose the death penalty. (I wish the same could be said of American Evangelicals!)

The Colorado legislation would not just repeal the death penalty, but would use the money saved to help solve cold case murders.  That provision has to appeal to law and order types, including a former prosecutor who is now CO governor, I hope. I wish Ritter would speak out in favor of the bill since that could help its chances in the CO Senate.

If CO abolishes the death penalty, it will be the second state this year (both Western states with Catholic governors) right after New Mexico, and the third state in two years (NJ abolished the death penalty in 2007).

MD, whose Catholic governor campaigned on abolishing the death penalty and won, has just passed legislation that would make it much harder to execute prisoners.  Gov. O’Malley thinks it a good first step and will sign it, but is not giving up on full abolition.

There are abolitionist bills currently in IL, CT, NH, ME, and NE.  The Alaska legislature killed a bill to restore their long-abandoned death penalty and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) vetoed legislation that would have greatly expanded their death penalty statute.


April 22, 2009 - Posted by | death penalty


  1. “I wish Ritter would speak out in favor of the bill since that could help its chances in the CO Senate.”

    Given that Democrats are a majority in both the CO House as well as the Senate, Ritter’s public support could certainly tip things in favor of passing.

    Comment by haitianministries | April 22, 2009

  2. Exactly. So, Daniel, how about organizing your fellow Coloradans to write, email, and phone Gov. Ritter to speak out on this. While they’re at it, they can contact their state senators and speak out, write letters to their local papers, etc.

    They should be sure to emphasize that the estimate $4 million per annum savings from abolition will go to solving unsolved (“cold case”) murders.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 22, 2009

  3. Personally I have serious reservations about the death penalty, but what penalty do we use if the death penalty is forbidden ?

    Comment by Paul | April 23, 2009

  4. Michael,

    Is the death penalty not okay for convicted murderers, but okay for innocent pre-born children?

    Show some consistency, please!

    Comment by Chuck | April 24, 2009

  5. Chuck, abortion is not “the death penalty for innocent pre-born children.” A “seamless garment” ethic that rules out abortion, the death penalty, war, euthanasia, as all violence. But there are enough differences under the surface between each of these issues that there are ethics that treat each of them separately that CAN be consistent, too. For instance, someone could believe that abortion is wrong but the death penalty is right because the underlying principle is not the protection of all human life, but INNOCENT human life. My position, that the death penalty is always immoral, but abortions, while immoral in most cases, is a tragic lesser evil in a few cases, is based on the underlying moral principle of the protection of human PERSONS. Fetuses are potential persons, so must be protected and allowed to fulfill that potential in most cases, but sometimes that must be overridden by the greater value of actual persons (the mother). A person convicted of murder, whether or not guilty, is an actual person and therefore his or her life must be protected–even if he or she took someone else’s life.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 24, 2009

  6. the argument over abortion and capitol punishment is a cat chasing it’s own tail

    In truth, society as a whole decides which life is worth keeping and which to dispose of.

    Practises vary by region and over time but the ultimate authority is society. It’s not a matter of right or wrong.

    Comment by norrish hall | May 4, 2009

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