Colorado Death Penalty Debated as Two Mass Killers Get Life
DENVER (AP) — A Denver jury’s refusal to give the death penalty to a man who stabbed five people to death in a bar, coming on the heels of theater shooter James Holmes’ life sentence, has many wondering whether the ultimate penalty will ever again be applied in Colorado.
Colorado has executed just one person in nearly half a century, and only three people sit on its death row. The man closest to seeing his death sentence carried out was granted an indefinite reprieve in 2013 by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said he had concerns about capital punishment’s inconsistent application and problems in obtaining the drugs required for lethal injection, among other factors. He has urged what he calls a conversation about the death penalty in the state.
That conversation intensified Thursday after a jury decided that Dexter Lewis, 25, convicted of killing five in the bar and setting the business on fire, should be spared execution and serve a life prison sentence instead.
A separate jury earlier this month couldn’t agree on the death penalty for Holmes, whose attack on a 2012 movie theater left 12 people dead and 70 injured. Holmes was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole.
“These were two pretty horrific murders, and nevertheless, Colorado jurors don’t have an appetite for executing people and seem to be quite satisfied with the punishment of life without parole,” Denver defense attorney Dan Recht said. “This could well be the death knell for the death penalty in Colorado.”