Colorado Springs
62° F
Overcast
Overcast
Advertisement

Gov. Hickenlooper speaks on death row inmate reprieve

By Lindsay Watts, Weekend GMC Anchor/Target 13 Investigator , l.watts@krdo.com
Published On: May 24 2013 09:59:12 PM CDT
Updated On: May 25 2013 12:21:30 AM CDT

Governor John Hickenlooper defends his decision this week to offer a reprieve to Nathan Dunlap.

Gov. John Hickenlooper gave a death row inmate his life back, and now he's talking about the decision that's sparked outrage across the state.

Hickenlooper indefinitely delayed the execution of Nathan Dunlap, the man who murdered four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese in 1993.

Hickenlooper was a supporter of the death penalty when he ran for governor two years ago.

"I started out in one place, but when you get the facts and the facts are different than anything you've been told, I mean, I'm a business person. I have to look at the facts," Hickenlooper said.

He said he's met with and listened to the victims' families and the survivor of the massacre.

"I felt awful," Hickenlooper said. "I went and met with them, everyone I could. All the families of the victims and the sole survivor."

He said the worst part of his decision was knowing they would be bitterly disappointed, but ultimately, it was what he learned about the death penalty that swayed him.

"That's there's no deterrent value, that it costs four times more money (than life in prison without parole) to go through the death penalty process, all the courtrooms and appeals. And that it really doesn't bring closure to some of the families of the victims," Hickenlooper said. "Why are we doing it? Is it vengeance?"

It's anger and hurt for Bobby Stephens, the sole survivor of the massacre.

"My current reaction is, I feel as if the wind has been kicked straight out of me," Stephens said.

Stephens and a juror on the case now question the state's justice system.

"If one person can take what a juror came up with and set it aside, then there is no system," said Steve, juror number 39. "Why do we need juries?"

Hickenlooper said part of the reason he granted a reprieve instead of clemency, which would permanently take Dunlap off death row, is consideration for everyone involved with the case.

"I also recognize that  juries and prosecutors and defense attorneys and expert witnesses all invested a great amount of time in this, and I don't want to disrespect them any more than I absolutely have to," Hickenlooper said. "I think this is a way of saying, 'Your work wasn't wasted.' I see the way the court of law decided this, but as a state, let's look at the bigger issues around capital punishment."

Hickenlooper stopped short of saying he wants to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. He said he believes that will happen eventually and that it's a conversation he wants Coloradans to start having.

Advertisement