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Colorado Senate Rejects a Scam

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Of all the attacks on the death penalty, the most despicable is the one perpetrated in Colorado. In order to drive a wedge between two groups of murder victims' families, the death penalty opponents there told the families in the unsolved cases that they could have additional funding for a cold case unit only if the money came from repeal of the death penalty, denying justice to the families of other murder victims. The scam is reminiscent of the movie Sophie's Choice, in which a mother is forced to choose which of her children will be killed.

Fortunately, it appears the scam has failed.

Out of the entire state budget of Colorado, why are these two items plucked out and set in opposition to each other? Is there nothing else that can be cut? Of course there are lots of things that could be cut. In Maryland, the legislature decided to reduce capital cases to a token few because it couldn't afford justice, and then it turned around and voted to take a money-losing racetrack by eminent domain, with huge upfront costs and a continuing fiscal burden for the indefinite future. Talk about misplaced priorities.

Meanwhile, back in the Rockies, Dean Toda has this story for the Colorado Springs Gazette.

A bill to repeal the death penalty in Colorado landed on death row Monday after the State Senate voted to gut the measure.

The Senate's action set up a possible confrontation with the House, which had approved the repeal. But any long-shot negotiations to bridge the chasm between the two houses face a deadline of midnight Wednesday, when the Legislature must adjourn.
*                   *                  *
Carroll also argued that capital punishment was irreversible and pointed to the 130 people released from death rows across the country after being cleared. "We do occasionally make mistakes," she said.

Opponents noted that no such exonerations had taken place in Colorado. They also argued that it was a "blatant gimmick," in the words of Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, to link death penalty repeal to cold-case funding.

The debate became moot when Sens. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, offered an amendment that let the death penalty stand while funding cold-case investigations through a $2.50 surcharge on booking fees paid by felony suspects and distributed to the cold-case units of local law enforcement agencies.

*                   *                  *

By shelving the death penalty issue, Senate Democrats set aside a hot potato that might have burned them politically. Mitchell, perhaps the Senate's most skillful debater, previewed a likely 2010 campaign theme when he attacked Gov. Bill Ritter on Monday for declining to take a stand on the death penalty, declaring that the governor "is not a profile in courage or in leadership."

Three cheers for Senator Mitchell and for all the senators who stood up to this cruel, cynical manipulation.

Update: AP reports, "Opponents of the death penalty in Colorado hope to revive a bill that would end capital punishment and use the money saved to investigate cold cases."

Doug Berman has this post at SL&P.

8 Comments

This post is spot-on. Of course, just when you think many in the "anti" crowd cannot stoop any lower, they always do. They cannot help it. They believe that abolition (note the glomming onto the anti-slavery crusade) is a categorical imperative. Anything, anything to serve the cause is therefore justified, be it an imputation of racism to jurors, judges and prosecutors, bogus allegations of innocence, propagandizing (e.g., Dieter's "Innocence" List), the berating of the surviving member of a family for standing up for the death penalty, and now this cynical ploy. Yuck.

Unfortunately, two institutions play along with this nonsense, the press and the judiciary. No one in the press ever asks anti-DP activists any hard questions about the propriety of these tactics. And the judiciary's casual abdication of its obligation to enforce a lawful sentence is appallingly cruel to victims' families. And the US Supreme Court has gone along with this.

The difference is, of course, that we expect more from the court system than we do from the likes of Dieter and other shameless activists infatuated with their self-proclaimed moral superiority. The law has to be followed, of course, but the bottom line is that no litigant should have less claim on a court's equitable powers to issue a stay than a convicted murderer sentenced to death who has (a) had a full panoply of state and federal review and (b) who has waited until the last minute to file a claim. Yet courts (including the US Supreme Court) routinely ignore this truism. In so doing, these courts undeniably favor the murderer over the victims' families. In some ways, that makes these judges worse than these shameless moral preeners.

Has a mainstream publication ever done an expose on Dieter's phony exonerated list? I've written to a number of journalists who'd done articles in which he was quoted. One journalist had been unaware that the deceptively neutral-sounding Death Penalty Information Center was ardently anti-death penalty and that the "exonerated" list was, at the very least, debatable. The journalist pledged to identify the DPIC as an anti-death penalty organization in any future articles in which the ubiquitous Mr. Dieter is quoted.
Has anyone ever asked Dieter why he isn't more forthcoming about the fact that he and the DPIC are abolitionist? I find the scam of pretending to be an unbiased source of information while having an overriding agenda to be truly repugnant. I wish someone would call him on this.

See Ward Campbell's "Exoneration Inflation" article on our Death Penalty Info page:

http://www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm

We have, BTW, been spreading the word that DPIC has an agenda. Associated Press, which originally fell for the "nonpartisan" ploy, has generally identified DPIC as anti in recent years.

Kent, I hate to propose that you do even more work, but here it goes: from now on why don't you (or someone on behalf of the CJLF) write a letter/e-mail to every journalist who quotes Dieter but doesn't write that the DPIC is anti-capital punishment? This would be merely to inform them that Dieter has an abolitionist agenda and is not just some kind of unbiased death-penalty archivist.

From my experience with the one journalist I wrote to who hadn't known that the DPIC was abolitionist, I realized that journalists, rather than being strongly biased, might just be too lazy or harried to do sufficient research. After my e-mail to him (and obviously after the article he had already written in which he had quoted Dieter), the journalist in question then perused the DPIC website and quickly agreed that the DPIC was clearly anti. I also forwarded the Ward Campbell article to him since he, like many others, had taken the exonerated list as fact.

Actually, yankalp, it would probably be more effective for like-minded people to do this. Letters to editor or to the reporters themselves could help.

We could use a full-time person to do this kind of public policy information work. Indeed, just refuting disinformation would be a full-time job. As always, though, availability of resources limits what we can do.

Well, I've been writing to these reporters over the past couple of months and have received a positive response from just one, while getting no reply at all from the others.

So, I'll keep plugging away then.

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