DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who granted convicted murdered Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve last May, is under fire on the issue of the death penalty once again.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat facing reelection this fall, hinted in an interview with CNN that he wouldn’t rule out granting full clemency to the killer if he loses this fall to a Republican who vows to carry out Dunlap’s execution.
When he announced his temporary reprieve last May just a few months before Dunlap’s scheduled execution, Hickenlooper told reporters he was unlikely to revisit the case before leaving office.
But in audio of the CNN interview, which has yet to air but as obtained by Complete Colorado, a new website funded by the conservative Independence Institute, Hickenlooper responded to the interviewer’s question about what might happen if Republicans are clammoring to have Dunlap executed and campaigning on making such a promise.
“If that becomes a political issue, in that context within a campaign, obviously there’s a period of time between the election and, and the end of the year where individuals can make decisions, such as a governor can,” Hickenlooper says.
When asked to elaborate on that point, Hickenlooper makes plain that he could grant Dunlap full clemency at any point.
“The issue that a political campaign would make a human life into, you know, a political football, is unacceptable. Right?” Hickenlooper says. “And it’s not… and a) I, I think it would backfire tremendously on any candidate that did that.
“And if they did do that, and if somehow they won, there are obviously remedies that the governor can do, you know, I could give it a full clemency between election day, I could…there are a number of different opportunities to make sure that doesn’t happen. Again, keeping in mind it should not be a political football.”
In an interview with FOX31 Denver earlier this month, Hickenlooper, who ran in 2010 as a pro-death penalty candidate, made it clear that he now opposes capital punishment.
Bob Beauprez, who won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in June and has promised that “justice will be served” to Dunlap if he’s elected in November, slammed Hickenlooper Monday afternoon.
“John Hickenlooper’s ‘temporary reprieve’ for Nathan Dunlap is one of clearest examples of his indecision and weak leadership,” Beauprez said. “It’s outrageous that now John Hickenlooper is threatening to give a convicted mass-murderer full clemency if people vote against him.
“There are plenty of good moral arguments for and against the death-penalty, but the law in Colorado is very, very clear. Nathan Dunlap has gone through twenty years exhausting every option available to him under Colorado law. His execution date was set. John Hickenlooper took an oath to enforce the laws of the state of Colorado, but when it was up to him to simply make the decision, he said ‘I can’t decide, so I’ll just leave it to the next guy.’
“That day justice was stolen from the families of the victims of that convicted murderer. On my watch, justice will be carried out, the laws of the state of Colorado will be enforced, and and I will never turn my back on the victims.”
Beauprez’s campaign also released a 60-second web video on the subject.