Fero’s Bar trial puts added focus on death penalty in Colorado

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DENVER -- The first death penalty case in Denver in 16 years is moving to the second phase.

Dexter Lewis, 32, was convicted Monday of killing five people at Fero's Bar and Grill in October 2012 and a jurors are considering evidence in the death penalty phase of the trial.

There are three phases in the penalty portion, with the jury already agreeing there were aggravating circumstances to move it to the second stage.

Three men are on Colorado's death row: Nathan Dunlap, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray. Like Lewis, all three are black men.

"Three percent of Coloradans are black and 100 percent of death row inmates are black. That's not good," attorney Phil Cherner said.

Last week, Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, a white man, received a sentence of life in sentence after a jury could not reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty.

"It just seems like something you can't ignore," Cherner said.

Whatever eventually happens in the Lewis case, prosecutors in the Aurora theater shooting trial said the Holmes verdict shows Colorado's death penalty laws work.

"I think it ought to be unanimous that does that and we got close, but close when it comes to taking the life of a person by the government isn't good enough and I can live with that," Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said.

Cherner, a death penalty opponent, argues the theater shooting case shows the system does not work.

"The DAa said on Holmes if we can't get it on this one who can we get it on," Cherner said. "That's the same as saying they shouldn't have gotten it on the others."