The death penalty is the least effective, most costly, and utterly irreversible form of punishment devised by our correctional system. Decades of studies demonstrate that the death penalty does not deter crime. The 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Report indicates that despite the South accounting for over 80% of executions in the United States, it also had the highest murder rate in the country.
Also, the costs to prosecute and defend against appeals in death penalty cases are astronomical. An ACLU-Colorado study estimated that “the average death penalty trial costs $3.5 million, compared to $150,000 for a trial for life without parole.” Studies show that it costs substantially more to house death row inmates as compared to those sentenced to life without parole. Because of budgetary constraints, neither the state of Colorado nor Colorado counties can financially support death penalty cases or death row inmates – life without parole is the better option that still administers strong justice.
Studies also show that application of the death penalty has a disproportionate and discriminatory effect on communities of color, particularly Black males. As an example, on September 26, 2017, a stay of execution was issued by the United States Supreme Court of a black inmate. One juror deciding the inmate’s fate said he voted to kill the inmate because the inmate was a “n***er”. A 2015 study published by the University of Denver Law Review showed that prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty in Colorado “depend to an alarming extent on the race and geographic location of the defendant.” We cannot tolerate such biases in our criminal justice system, particularly when racism can lead to the death of an innocent person.
Lastly, with greater sophistication in DNA testing and evidence of police or prosecutorial misconduct, death row inmates are being exonerated for crimes they did not commit. Because the death penalty is an ultimate and irreversible punishment, it is unconscionable for our society to allow the death penalty to continue in the state of Colorado. No one would ever want to see an innocent person put to death.
It is for these reasons that in 2013, Joe voted in favor of HB13-1264, which would have repealed Colorado’s death penalty law. As Attorney General, Joe will rely on all the evidence, scholarly studies, and expert reports to advocate for the repeal of Colorado’s death penalty statute. However, Joe recognizes that while the death penalty statute remains on the books, he has a legal obligation to enforce the statute.