Hickenlooper’s decision on Dunlap execution could come Wednesday

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (left); and convicted killer Nathan Dunlap.

DENVER — There are several indications that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper could announce his decision on whether or not to grant clemency to Nathan Dunlap at the Capitol as early as Wednesday afternoon.

A bill signing initially set for Wednesday has now been put off; and the Arapahoe District Attorney’s office has received a permit to hold a press conference on the Capitol’s west steps at 2 p.m., which could be shortly after the announcement.

Initially, the DA’s office had requested a permit for Friday, thinking the decision would come then, at the start of a long holiday weekend; late Tuesday afternoon, they dropped that request and got the permit for Wednesday instead, the Colorado Dept. of Personnel confirmed.

Hickenlooper’s office wouldn’t say whether any decision has been reached or if an official announcement was being scheduled.

“The victims asked us to be as expeditious as we possibly could be, and the governor is doing everything he can to honor that request,” Roxane White, Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff, told FOX31 Denver Tuesday.

Dunlap, who murdered four people inside an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1994, made a formal plea for clemency earlier this month after an Arapahoe County judge scheduled an execution date the week of August 18-24.

Hickenlooper has met with prosecutors, Dunlap’s defense team and with relatives of the killer’s victims, who are split on whether they want the governor to go forward with the execution.

White, perhaps Hickenlooper’s most trusted advisor, has made her feelings known. A former social worker and ordained minister, she opposes the death penalty for moral reasons, as does a majority of the governor’s cabinet.

Meanwhile, Republicans like Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and state Sen. Greg Brophy, who may decide to run against Hickenlooper next year, have publicly pressured the governor not to intervene and to let the execution go forward.

“The idea that a governor who ran on support of the death penalty may choose to inject himself in a process that he does not have to, to take this away from the voters, to take this away from the jurors who sat on this case — that is an injustice,” Brauchler told reporters earlier this month when the execution date was set.

For Hickenlooper, a politician known for seeking consensus, the Dunlap dilemma is exceedingly difficult: there is no “third way”, no path through the middle — Dunlap either lives or he dies and the decision lies with the governor.

“It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with,” a still-conflicted Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver in April.

Sources close to the governor have indicated that they’ve been pushing for a decision sooner rather than later, knowing that the public pressure will only intensify as the mid-August execution date nears.

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