David Isberg: Inmate seeks reprieve from his "death sentence," too
Governor John Hickenlooper confounded death-penalty advocates and opponents alike last month when he granted a reprieve but not clemency to Nathan Dunlap, who'd been scheduled for execution in August for the 1993 murders of four people. Now David Isberg is hoping the governor will intervene to prevent another "death sentence" -- the one he's facing in six months or less after being denied critical medical treatment because of his status as an inmate in Colorado's prison system.
Like Dunlap, Isberg has a bipolar condition and a history of erratic behavior. Unlike Dunlap, Isberg has never killed anyone. Yet his family and supporters say he's battling a life-or-death situation that gets more urgent with every passing day -- and can only be addressed by either a reduction in sentence or executive clemency from Hickenlooper.
But can Hick muster as much interest in Isberg's strange case as he did in the legal and moral quandaries involved in the execution of the Chuck E. Cheese killer?
Back in 2007 former Westword writer Naomi Zeveloff reported on Isberg, who'd been convicted of marijuana possession and then diagnosed with bladder cancer, in a story on the lack of health care for prisoners once they move to halfway houses. Since that time, Isberg has beaten the cancer into remission -- only to pick up more health problems and more serious charges.
A graphic from our 2007 feature about David Isberg.
Last year, Isberg learned that he has T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He received chemotherapy, achieved remission, then relapsed -- and now is receiving chemo treatment again. His chief hope for survival beyond the six-month window doctors have now given him is a bone marrow transplant. That treatment is by no means a sure thing; however, Isberg has four siblings, each of whom has a 30 percent chance of being a potential donor.
But a letter from one of his physicians at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers explains that the doctor in charge of his case "feels that Mr. Isberg is not and will never be a candidate for transplantation, even if he does achieve a second remission, because his position as a prisoner in jail makes it unsafe for him to go through the procedure."
By unsafe, the doctor adds, he means that an inmate lacks the "adequate social support" a transplant patient needs. That social support is unlikely to materialize any time soon -- not as long as Isberg, currently confined to a prison infirmary, is serving 32 years for robbery.
Continue for more about the David Isberg case.