Death penalty makes us less safe, says ACLU executive
As we've reported, yesterday was World Day to End the Death Penalty, and to mark the occasion, capital punishment opponents gathered at the State Capitol to decry the ultimate penalty with time-tested arguments and new statistics from a white paper and infographic assembled for the occasion; see both below. Among the assertions made by Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, the ACLU of Colorado's executive director, in an interview after the event: "The death penalty may actually be making us less safe."
Photos, video and more below.
Speakers at yesterday's event included Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, Sharletta Evans, the mother of a murder victim, and Robert Dewey, who served nearly sixteen years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. Dewey, who was ultimately exonerated by DNA evidence, said at the gathering that the death penalty had been discussed in his case, and if it had been imposed, he would have died despite being innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.
We had a lot of people coming from a lot of different perspectives," says Woodliff-Stanley. "And we also highlighted research that we and Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty have done around the cost of these death penalty cases.
Stan Garnett at yesterday's World Day to End the Death Penalty event.
"What we've found through open-records requests on prior cases is that death penalty trials in Colorado cost an average of $3.5 million," he continues. "And that's just for the trial. That doesn't count appeals or the cost of maintaining death row, which is much more expensive than maintaining life without the possibility of parole."
This last factoid may strike some folks as counter-intuitive, Woodliff-Stanley acknowledges. "A lot of people think it saves money because you don't have to keep people in prison all their lives. But the reality is, it costs a lot more."
To illustrate the price, Woodliff-Stanley highlights the decision of Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey to seek the death penalty against Dexter Lewis in the quintuple homicide at Fero's Bar & Grill in October 2012, as well as Douglas County's years-long death-penalty pursuit of Edward Montour for a prison murder.
Robert Dewey talking about his opposition to the death penalty.
"You have counties like Denver, where there have been severe cuts to Head Start programs coming out of the sequester," he notes. "Yet at the same time, you have a county prosecutor initiating a death penalty case that will probably cost in the vicinity of $3.5 million, which could have provided access to Head Start for 500 children. And in Douglas County, they are cutting about $300,000 out of programs for people with developmental disabilities. You have to wonder, if they can't afford something as important as that, how can they afford to spend ten times that much on a single death penalty case."
Continue for more about the ACLU of Colorado's arguments against the death penalty, including photos, an infographic, a video and more.