Death penalty repeal hitting major obstacles at Colorado State Capitol

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DENVER -- An effort to repeal Colorado's death penalty has hit a major roadblock.

Sources tell FOX31 that the legislation -- which had no trouble advancing out of Senate committees -- has been delayed several times from debate on the Senate floor over concerns the votes aren't there for passage.

One major reason Democrats who control the chamber are uneasy about the bill is one of their own is personally involved.

State Sen. Rhonda Fields' (D-Aurora) son was murdered by two of three men on Colorado's death row.

Fields has been publicly critical of the bill, believing Colorado voters should decide on repealing the death penalty instead of lawmakers.

Another major reason the measure is struggling is prosecutors have been telling lawmakers about why they believe the death penalty is important.

While Colorado district attorneys rarely seek the sentence, the threat of death oftentimes leads to criminals pleading guilty or helping investigators.

"Public defenders and defense attorneys come forward all the time and say, 'If you take death off the table, we will plead guilty to first-degree murder,'" George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District Attorney, said.

Brauchler has been personally involved in lobbying lawmakers to vote no.

"You remove the death penalty from the books and you have agreed no one will plead guilty ever again to first-degree murder," Brauchler said.

The death penalty repeal bill is again scheduled for debate later this week. FOX31 will continue to follow this bill and any amendments that might be offered to get more Democrats on board.

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