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C5040D6A6DDC8461872583B5007399E2 Hearing Summary




PUBLIC
BILL SUMMARY For SB19-182

SENATE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
Date Mar 6, 2019      
Location SCR 357



SB19-182 - Referred to the Committee of the Whole

01:39:01 PM  
Senator Lee called the meeting to order.  A quorum was
present.  He made opening remarks and laid ground rules for the meeting.

Senators Williams and Gonzales, co-prime sponsors, explained
SB19-182, concerning the repeal of the death penalty by the General Assembly.
 Senator Williams discussed reasons why the death penalty is not an
effective deterrent, associated costs, racial disparities, and wrongful
convictions.  Senator Gonzales echoed many of the same concerns as
Senator Williams and acknowledged the emotions involved.  

02:02:43 PM  

The following District Attorneys spoke in opposition to the bill: George Braucher, 18th Judicial District; Dave Young, 17th Judicial District; Michael Rourke,19th Judicial District; and, Dan May, 4th Judicial District.  The district attorneys all emphasized that the death penatly is an essential tool in leveraging guilty pleas and that its fate should be decided by Colorado voters, not legislators.  They stressed that, as district attorneys, the death penalty is brought up only after careful consideration in extreme cases. Another argument raised against repealing the death penalty by the panel was that it would be an insult to victims.   

The district attorneys answered questions from the committee about crime and murder rates in states that do not have the death penalty.   Discussion followed about the constitutionality of the death penalty.  Conversation continued about community support and high profile crimes. 

 

 

02:20:52 PM  

The district attorneys expressed concerns about the possible retroactive application of the bill.  Additional concerns were raised about the short time frame in which the bill was scheduled and the lack of victim input.  Further questions were asked about demographics of inmates on death row, the appeals process, and cases that have been overturned.    

02:31:25 PM  

Committee members referenced a study conducted by the University of Denver regarding the application of the death penalty in the state, which the panel of district attorneys disputed.  Discussion followed about district attorney resources and the costs of death penalty cases.  Committee members asked questions about why the district attorneys think the bill will be applied retroatively. 

02:36:29 PM  

Doug Wilson, representing himself as the former State Public Defender, spoke in favor of the bill.  He discussed the difficulties of defending death penalty clients and the time and costs involved.  He further discussed morality and decency and provided a history of the application of the death penalty in Colorado.  He also covered demographics, deterrents, mental illness, and the rights of the defendants in death penalty cases.   He answered questions from the committee about defending those on death row and other related issues. 

 

02:57:57 PM  

Bobby Stephens, representing himself, spoke in opposition to the bill.  As the only survivor of the Chuck E. Cheese massacre, he discussed how the bill directly impacts his case, He explained to the committee how the crime affected his life and raised concerns that the bill may be applied retroactively. 

03:08:28 PM  

Superintendent Patrick Demmer, representing the Greater Metropolitan Denver Ministerial Alliance, spoke in support of the bill.  He discussed racial disparity and death row inmates.  

Deacon Geoff Bennett, representing the Colorado Catholic Conference, spoke in support of the bill.  He discussed the sacredness of life and Catholic Church position on the death penalty.   The committee asked questions about religion and the catechism. 

David Lane, representing himself as an attorney, testfiied in favor of the bill.  He countered some of the arguments  in support of the death penalty brought up by the district attorneys.  He discusssed the time and expense of death penalty cases, deterrence, safety, and the need to separate justice and vengeance.  In response to questions from the committee, Mr. Lane stressed that not all victims support the death penalty. 

03:31:22 PM  

Walter Stephens, representing himself, spoke in opposition to the bill.  He explained that he is the brother of Bobby Stephens, the Chuck E. Cheese survivor who testified previously.  He discussed the impact of the crime on his family, the length of the appeals process, and jury selection. 

03:37:12 PM  

Valarie Finks, representing victim services in the 18th Judicial District, testified in opposition to the bill.  She read a statement from a mother whose daughter was murdered at the Chuck E. Cheese massacre.  She urged committee members to put the death penalty question to a vote of the people. 

03:39:21 PM  

Maisha Fields, representing herself, testified in opposition ot the bill. She identified herself as Senator Rhonda Fields' daughter.  She first voiced concerns about the short time frame in which the bill was scheduled.  She next discussed her brother's case (he was murdered before testifying in court) and the cost of crimes on families.  She stressed that people on death row deserve to be there and urged the committee to put the death penalty on a ballot instead of through the legislative process.  She answered questions from the committee about the stakeholder process, minorities on death row, commutation of sentences, and the appeals process. 

04:02:51 PM  

Beth McCann, District Attorney for City and County of Denver, testified in support of the bill.  She stated reasons for opposing the death penalty, including time and costs.  She stressed that the death penalty is not a deterrent in extreme acts of violence and expressed the opinion that using the death penalty to extract a plea is not the proper use of prosecutorial power.

Michael Dougherty, District Attorney for Boulder County, testified in support of the bill.  He provided reasons for opposing the death penalty, including moral and procedural grounds. 

Discussion followed about an imperfect criminal justice system and permanent mistakes.  Committee members asked questions about effective legal counsel and if the death penalty should be put to a vote of the people.  Ms. McCann and Mr. Dougherty agreed that equal protection issues, such as the death penatly, should not be on a ballot. 

 

04:24:01 PM  

Mr. Wilson returned to the table and joined in the discussion about defending a person on death row.  Mr.  Wilson argued that a life sentence takes substantially less time to prosecute.  Discussion continued about victims and ethical issues related to using a death sentence in a plea bargain. 

04:41:22 PM  

Ms. McCann and Mr. Dougherty walked the committee through the steps of filing a murder case. 

The committee recessed. 

05:03:05 PM  

The committee returned to order.

Jean Friedlund, representing the League of Women Voters, testified in support of SB 19-182. Ms. Friedlund discussed the experiences of victims' families during the death penalty adjudication process. She said she did not want the state to sanction killing people.

Alex Perez, representing himself, testified in support of the bill. Mr. Perez recounted his experience as an inmate blamed for a murder while in prison, and his subsequent acquittal. He explained that mistakes can be made in the criminal justice system. Mr. Perez responded to questions regarding the handling of evidence in his case.

05:14:59 PM  

Robert Autobee, representing himself, testified in support of the bill. He recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and discussed the effect of the death penalty on society.

Tim Ricard, represenyting himself, spoke in support of the bill.  He discussed the importance of love and forgiveness.  He relayed a personal account of resolving questions in his mom's death that would not have been answered if the perpetrator was put to death. 

Ezra Aldren, representing himself, testified in support of the bill. He discussed his mother's murder and forgiveness and redemption. 

Arlis Keller, representing herself, spoke in support of the bill. She discussed her brother's murder and raised concerns about innocent people convicted of crimes they didn't commit.

05:34:26 PM  

Lindy Frolich, representing the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel, spoke in support of the bill.  She cited statistics from her office and discussed the high costs of a death penalty case versus other class 1 felonies.  She expressed concerns about using a death penalty as a plea. 

Hollis Whitson, representing herself as a criminal defense lawyer, testified in favor of the bill.  She discussed aquitals and racial disparity.  She noted that death penatly cases take a substantially longer time to try than life sentences.  She cited further statistics about reversal rates and appeals. 

05:48:34 PM  

Juan Melendez, representing himself, spoke in support of the bill.  He told the committee about spending 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  

05:56:29 PM  

Abigail Negley, representing the Arc of Colorado, spoke in support of the bill. She noted that persons with intellectual disabilities are eight times more likely to falsely confess to crimes. She raised further questions about competency. She answered questions from the committee about the differences between intellectual and developmental disabilities and distributed a handout (Attachment A). 

06:03:44 PM  

Scott Phillips, representing himself, spoke in favor of the bill.  He discussed a study he conducted at the University of Denver about race and deterrence in death penalty cases.  He stressed all death row inmates in Colorado are African American and from the 18th Judicial District. 

Sam Kamin, representing himself, testified in support of the bill.  He discussed a study that he conducted as a professor at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver.  He countered some of the issues raised by the first panel of district attorneys in support of the death penalty and raised concerns about prosecutorial discretion and constitutionality. 

06:17:56 PM  

Amanda Henderson, representing Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, testified in support of the bill. She discussed that the death penalty perpetuates violence and pain.

Jill Willenberg, representing Interfaith Alliance, spoke in support of the bill. She read testimony from Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald, who was unable to stay at the hearing, in support of the bill. 

Rev. Brian Henderson, representing Interfaith Alliance, testified in favor of the measure.  He discussed that those without capital are most often the ones punished. 

06:30:49 PM  

Thomas Perille, representing Democrats for Life of Colorado, spoke in support of the bill. He distributed a handout of his testimony (Attachment B).

06:35:00 PM  

Nicole King, representing herself, spoke in support of the bill.  She raised religious objections to the death penalty. 

Jack Benson, representing himself, spoke in support of the bill.  He shared that his mother was a correctional officer killed in the line of duty.  He noted that his objections to the death penalty have been ignored as a victim.  He read a letter from his sister in support of the bill.  The letter expressed her opposition to the death penalty and stressed that litigation revictimizes the victims.  The letter read that her mom who was murdered would have chosen forgiveness. 

06:47:09 PM  

Judy Danielson, representing herself, testified in support of hte bill. 

Phil Cherner, representing the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, spoke in support of the bill and submitted a sign-on letter to repeal the death penalty for murder victims' families (Attachment C).

Hal Wright, representing himself, testified in favor of the bill. He discussed serving as a juror on a first degree murder case.

07:01:49 PM  

Senator Gardner read a statement into the record in opposition to the bill from a women in Grand Junction who was unable to make the hearing or appear via remote testimony.

Senator Williams read letters into the record in support of the bill, including one from a former superintendent of corrections in Oregon who participated in an execution (Attachment D).  

Two other letters in support of the bill were submitted for the record (Attachment E).

07:10:06 PM  

Committee members discussed their reasons for supporting or opposing the bill. 

 

Senators Williams and Gonzales made closing remarks. 



07:31:19 PM
Motion Refer Senate Bill 19-182 to the Committee of the Whole.
Moved Gonzales
Seconded
Cooke No
Gardner No
Rodriguez Yes
Gonzales Yes
Lee Yes
Final YES: 3   NO: 2   EXC: 0   ABS:  0   FINAL ACTION:  PASS






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