But we hope Gov. John Hickenlooper, who still has not taken a position, sides with supporters of House Bill 1264, which would abolish capital punishment in Colorado.
Another bill would send the issue to voters. We think that's a mistake. Lawmakers, the elected representatives in our republican form of government, have the right and the duty to decide tough questions like this. It should be no different in the case of the death penalty.
We've said it before and will say it again: Reason and morality demand that the death penalty be abolished.
There are many reasoned arguments against the death penalty, not the least of which is its uneven application. Similarly brutal murders can result in very dissimilar punishments, with a death sentence dependent more on where the killing took place than the details of the crime.
But even without that troubling flaw, one argument stands immovable: There is no way to write the law to guarantee an innocent person is never executed.
Consider the case of Joe Arridy, a 23-year-old man executed in 1939 for the killing of a 15-year-old Pueblo girl. Arridy was convicted despite evidence of a false and coerced confession, evidence that Arridy likely was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by another suspect.
Former Gov. Bill Ritter granted a posthumous pardon to Arridy in 2011 "based on the great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, and his severe mental disability at the time of his trial and execution."
As Randy Steidl, who was on death row in Illinois for 12 years before being exonerated, told the committee Tuesday, "You can release an innocent man from prison, but you cannot release him from the grave."
Lawmakers in Maryland have voted this year to repeal the death penalty, and with the expected signature of its governor, the state would become the 18th to abolish capital punishment.
Five states Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York and New Jersey have abolished the death penalty since 2007. We believe it is time Colorado joined these ranks.
The Denver Post, March 21