Debate about repealing death penalty takes center stage at State Capitol

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Denver — Should Colorado repeal the death penalty?

The last person executed in Colorado was Gary Lee Davis in 1997. Right now, only three men are on Colorado’s death row: Nathan Dunlap, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray.

State Democrats are poised to never add to that list, however, with testimony to repeal the death penalty being heard in the State Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

But the jury foreman who sentenced Robert Ray to death says Colorado lawmakers should pause and reflect on how having the death penalty works.

“I don’t think we should abolish the death penalty because we don’t abuse it in Colorado — clearly, we don’t abuse it here — and it’s proven to be a valuable tool for prosecutors,” said Carl Dubler. He has written a book about the controversial issue titled “Playing God.”

But others disagree — including many faith leaders.

“It is unconscionable that 100 percent of those on death row could possibly be African-Americas,” said Rev. Patrick Demmer at the Capitol this week, referring to the three aforementioned men.

While Gov. Jared Polis has signaled he would sign this bill into law if passed by Democrats, there are questions as to whether Democrats can pass this in the State Senate.

“I stand before you as a victim of crime,” State Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) said. Fields’ son was killed by Ray and Owens in 2005. Fields is against the bill, believing it should go to voters instead.

On the Senate floor, she has raised questions about the timeline of passing the bill. It was introduced Monday and was already being heard in committee Wednesday.

“When we talk about the magnitude of abolishing the death penalty, surely there should be enough time to have a thorough and comprehensive debate,” Fields said.

On Wednesday night, the measure passed committee in a 3-2 vote.

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