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

Colorado Senate Defeats Death Penalty Abolition

I had high hopes that CO would become the 2nd state this year and the 3rd state in 2 years to abolish the death penalty.  I was especially impressed at the wording of the CO bill which would repeal the death penalty AND USE THE MONEY SAVED (est. at $3 million per year) to investigate cold case murders.  The bill passed the CO House of Representatives 33-32 on 20 April.  It passed 2 key committees in the state Senate.  But when it came to the full senate vote, an amendment passed that appropriated more money for cold cases but kept the death penalty. (Where will CO get this money in a recession without the savings from repeal of the death penalty?)  That amended bill passed on 04 May.  In the reconciliation conference, the repeal of the death penalty was restored, but the Senate defeated that bill 18-17 on 06 May–at the end of the legislative session. 

The narrowness of the bill’s passage in the House and the narrowness of the defeat in the Senate shows that this is not the end of this debate in CO.  It also shows that if Gov.  Bill Ritter (D-CO) had used his influence with the Democratically controlled legislature, he could have passed this bill.  So, Colorado abolitionists, between now and next session, you have to create a groundswell  for abolition and work on changing a few key legislators–and work on getting the governor publicly on your side.

A bill to abolish the death penalty has passed the House of Reps. in NH, but looks to simply die in the Senate.  A bill to abolish the death penalty in IL passed a key House committee but no further action has been  taken and the legislative session is drawing to a close.  A bill to abolish the death penalty in CT passed a key house committee, but no further action has been taken.

North Carolina seems poised to pass the Racial Justice Act which would allow judges to vacate death sentences if it could be  proven that racial prejudice was involved in the sentencing. (Unfortunately,  it is much easier to prove racism in death sentences statistically than to show that  it was involved in a particular sentence–unless the jurors sit around making racist jokes or something.)

The movement to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. has gained considerable ground since the 1990s, but it is still an uphill struggle.  My hopes that this year could see a rash of state abolitions was premature, it seems.  But even if we get only one  state per year, we will be moving in the right direction.


May 13, 2009 - Posted by | death penalty

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