Colorado Death Penalty Abolished, Polis Commutes Sentences Of Death Row Inmates

Mar 24, 2020

Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday March 23, that he had signed the bill to abolish the death penalty, and would commute the sentences of the three men on Colorado's death row to life in prison without parole.

Governor Jared Polis has signed a bill to repeal the death penalty. The measure passed the Democratic legislature with limited bipartisan support earlier this spring and was sent to him shortly before lawmakers suspended their session.

This makes Colorado the 22nd state to abolish capital punishment, and it marks the conclusion of reform efforts that began at the Colorado State Capitol in 2007. 

"It's important that we end that I think it has been a very discriminatory practice, not just towards people of color, but people within geographic areas within the state," said Democratic Rep. Adrienne Benavidez of Adams County, one of the law's main sponsors. Prosecutors and juries in different parts of Colorado have shown different levels of comfort with the penalty.

In normal times, the signing of such a historic bill would likely be a news event, with the champions of abolition gathered around to celebrate. But Polis followed his own recommendations for social distancing, instead announcing the signing through a press release after the fact.

At the same time he announced the bill signing, the governor also commuted the sentences of three men on death row:  Robert RaySir Mario Owens and Nathan Dunlap. They will now serve life in prison without possibility of parole. Their cases were not directly affected by the repeal, leaving their fates up to Polis.

Read more from our news partners at CPR News.