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DENVER — A group of state lawmakers wants to make it easier to impose the death penalty
in Colorado by dropping the state’s requirement for a unanimous jury verdict to reach a death sentence.
Originating in the GOP-controlled Senate, SB 64 is sponsored by six Republican senators and no Democrats.
The bill would allow the death penalty to be imposed if 9 out of 12 jurors vote in favor of death.
Sponsors told 9NEWS the effort is a direct response to the Aurora theater shooting trial, which resulted in a sentence of life because not all of the jurors voted for death, as well as a similar outcome in a Denver case involving multiple murders at Fero’s bar in Denver.
“I believe there is an appropriateness for the death penalty for the worst of crimes, but it has to be set up in such a way that it can occur,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud.) “The unanimous opinion has become too high a bar. So, I believe three-quarters of the jury should be sufficient.”
The idea of sentencing a convict to death without a unanimous jury is not unprecedented in today’s legal system. According to the American Bar Association, of the 32 state with capital punishment—three allow the death penalty without a unanimous jury verdict: Alabama, Delaware, and Florida.
Still, the prospects for the bill are dim under the current balance of power in Colorado’s legislature. The House is controlled by Democrats, many (but not all) of whom would like to do away with the death penalty.
“[The death penalty] really is an archaic practice that needs to go away,” said Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) “By reducing the threshold and making it easier, we’re just doing the wrong thing.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office could not promise whether such a bill would be vetoed, but it’s worth remembering that the governor told 9NEWS during his re-election campaign that he would be willing to sign a repeal of the death sentence if it ever landed on his desk.
(© 2016 KUSA)