Society

Blacks in Colorado Make Up 4 Percent of the Population and 100 Percent of Death Row Inmates

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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In March, Colorado was poised to pass legislation that would have abolished the death penalty, but Gov. John Hickenlooper ultimately killed the bill. Now, as noted by Think Progress, the state is about to execute its second death row inmate in 45 years.

In December 1993, Nathan Dunlap, then 19, shot five people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora. Four of the victims died. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1996.

Letters sent to the Democratic governor from judges, university professors and other state leaders are asking him to commute Dunlap’s sentence because of apparent bias in the system:

·      The three inmates on death row are all African American, although blacks only make up 4.3 percent of the Colorado population.

·      The three men are all from the same county, one of Colorado’s 64.

·      The death raw inmates all committed their crimes when they were under the age of 21.

Two law professors claim the Colorado death penalty is unconstitutional because the state has not set “clear statutory standard for distinguishing between the few who are executed and the many who commit murder.”

“It appears that race, geography and youth largely determines who gets the death penalty in Colorado,” wrote a group of NAACP leaders in a letter urging Gov. Hickenlooper 

The death penalty is sought in less than one percent of all cases in Colorado where it is an option.

Nearly every newspaper in the state of Colorado has come out in favor of clemency for Dunlap. Republicans who opposed the house bill also oppose clemency.

Hickenlooper’s doubts about the bill killed it without him even having to make a public threat of veto.

"I have the votes in the House to pass the bill and it's not just partisan, it's bipartisan," said the repeal bill's co-sponsor, Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder). 

"He did not say, 'I will definitively, undoubtedly with no question veto this,'" Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) told the Denver Post. "But he did say that is something he is bouncing around. He used the 'v' word." 

Ever concerned with new gun legislation, Hickenlooper likely does not want to slow down gun measure traction in the House. From banning high capacity magazines over 15 rounds to implementing universal background checks on gun sales, Colorado has been hard at work to reform gun laws in the wake of the December mass murder as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Sources: Think Progress, The Atlantic