Death penalty: Representative Claire Levy says she is confident a repeal could pass

Claire Levy thumbnail image.jpg
Claire Levy.
Before Representative Claire Levy proposes legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado, she wants to be sure that it can pass.

And after more discussions with her fellow lawmakers on the topic, she says it seems like the momentum is right to get rid of the death penalty -- even if one of her Democratic colleagues is adamantly opposed to the move.

"I can't say with certainty...but I'm getting more confident," Levy says. "Those of us who are sponsoring it want to be sure we are going to be able to pass it before we introduce it. We are getting in confident in that."

At a pre-legislative forum in December, reporters asked the leaders of the Colorado General Assembly whether it was likely that a proposal to repeal the death penalty would be considered this year. At the time, Democrats said it was a possibility and John Morse, the new president of the Senate, revealed that he would likely support a repeal, which he has opposed in the past.

And though the new legislative session hasn't yet begun, the possibility of a death penalty repeal has since gotten more attention, most recently with reports that Levy, a Democrat who represents Boulder, is exploring the potential for a bill.

Representative Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat, told us last week that she has been and will remain strongly opposed to any efforts to get rid of the death penalty, calling the proposal "an insult to crime victims." For Fields, it is very personal: Two of the three inmates on death row in Colorado were responsible for the death of her son in 2005.

Rhonda Fields, right, press conference.jpg
Sam Levin
Rhonda Fields, right, at a recent press conference about the Aurora theater shooting.
"There's nothing that can undo what happened to her son," Levy says of Fields's concerns. "I'm a mother. I think I have some inkling of how painful it would be to lose your son to violence, but I think it's my obligation as a state representative to have our laws reflect what I believe are the current standards of decency and humanity in this country."

Levy points out that seventeen states currently do not have the death penalty, and says the time has come for Colorado to join the ranks.

"We have increasing concerns about the possibility of executing an innocent person," says Levy, adding, "The data is overwhelming that it is not applied in an objective, consistent and fair way.... It's applied inconsistently and arbitrarily."

Levy says her repeal proposal would mean that convicted criminals could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. "We want to be sure that it's very clear to the public and other legislators that [criminals]...could be sentenced to die in prison," she says, noting that no one on death row who was convicted and sentenced would have their sentence retroactively changed.

"At some point," she continues, "you have to ask the question, to what extent are we going to go to execute people when we have an alternative, i.e. life in prison, that keeps the public safe? It prevents the person from ever walking free.... Why go to the extent we are going to execute someone?"

Supporters have pointed out that some of the worst criminals, such as Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, are often exempt from the death penalty anyway, due to insanity determinations. And another argument in favor of abolishing the death penalty is that it is expensive to keep inmates on death row -- and that the money could be put to better use.

Levy is using all these arguments as she explores the possibility of pushing the proposal. "The time is right," she says.

More from our Politics archive: "Rep. Lois Court: Fees for gun background checks could help fund mental health services"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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16 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

" Welcome to general population, Mr. Nathan Dunlap ! "

" Today in the main dining hall, we are serving 'pizza' . "

" ENJOY !!! "

pritchard_maria
pritchard_maria

While I sympathize with losing a loved one to crime, to suggest that repeal is an "insult to victims of crime" may be slightly dishonest for I feel she is raising hopes by suggesting that their killers will be executed. As has been pointed out, there is no guarantee that Holmes for instance will face the DP. With just three inmates on DR in a state which has only executed one individual since 1978 and where the political climate is increasingly veering towards repeal, it is looking more likely than not that these DR inmates will not face execution and that repeal is a matter of time.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

Nothing wrong with vengeance when properly directed. If someone did something to myself, family, or friends heinous enough to bring life in prison/death penalty I'd rather see them removed from this mortal coil than know my tax money is keeping them alive wasting away. Just adds insult to injury. Id sleep better knowing they are dead.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

Hell. No. It is very effective at ensuring no repeat offenders and is only a drain because it takes decades to execute. Far more of a drain to keep them imprisoned for life Cindy. 20 years is cheaper than 40.

Cindy Hill
Cindy Hill

Yes, wholeheartedly. It's a drain on the system and ultimately ineffective as a preventative measure.

Brad McHargue
Brad McHargue

Yes, but we should also do something about prison reform. Is it any wonder our recidivism rate is through the roof?

Mane Rok
Mane Rok

Yes indeed. On it's most basic level, I understand the family of a victim's emotions needing an "eye for an eye" type "justice", but what does that really help in the end? We can't study murderers we've killed. PLus, the fact that on average a Life Sentence cost John Q Public over $500k and an execution on average cost 3.2million. There is no reason for the death penalty except vengence.

Mark Ewell
Mark Ewell

Absolutely. As a conservative who typically votes Republican, I wholly support the repeal of the death penalty. It is expensive, provides no value to society, and we (as a country) sometimes execute factually innocent people.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Death is NOT a Penalty.

Think about it.


mrwiizrd
mrwiizrd

What happened to Ms. Fields son is a terrible tragedy, but to say that repealing the death penalty is "an insult to crime victims" is selfishly naive.

Prosecutorial and Crime Lab misconduct stories are a dime a dozen these days, we have executed innocent people in this country and we will continue to do so until we repeal this barbaric practice.

It's not worth even one innocent persons life to avoid insulting anyone ever. 

vox-populi
vox-populi

certainly a better cause than her ill-conceived MJ DUI bill. This could help her career without harming any innocents! 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Josh Bradley  ... it's also effective at ensuring that the wrongfully convicted don't get any further appeals ...

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@mrwiizrd  "What happened to Ms. Fields son is a terrible tragedy, but to say that repealing the death penalty is "an insult to crime victims" is selfishly naive."

Especially given that Negroes -- like her -- are sentenced to Death at a rate 40% HIGHER than white murderers ... and that Negroes -- like her -- suffer a far greater rate of WRONGFUL convictions and draconian sentences for similar crimes.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-black-and-white-who-lives-who-dies-who-decides


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident ... does it not END mortal suffering ... and if you are inclined to superstitious nonsense, send that person's soul to eternal bliss in Heaven ... including the most vile souls who merely accept Jesus as their savior and renounce any manner of atrocity they may have committed? 

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