Victim families call for death penalty repeal as bill is introduced
DENVER_ Thirty family members of Colorado murder victims called on lawmakers to repeal the state’s death penalty today as legislation was introduced in the Colorado House this evening.
“As lawmakers consider whether to keep or end Colorado’s death penalty, we urge them to make the choice that best serves the interests of victims’ families,” the letter states. “We hope they will conclude what we have: that the death penalty fails victims’ families.”
The letter to lawmakers comes as a repeal bill is introduced in the House. Among the sponsors of that bill, Sen. Luis Guzman, lost her father in a brutal attack.
“I saw the way death penalty proceedings can divide family members,” Guzman said. “Years of proceedings and conflict can be very painful.”
House sponsor Claire Levy said the bill to repeal the death penalty follows a national trend of rethinking the expensive and legally arbitrary act. The same day her bill was introduced, Maryland’s House of Delegates passed repeal – their Governor’s anticipated signature on that bill will make them the sixth state in as many years to repeal capital punishment.
“The death penalty is a failed public policy,” Levy said. “It fails on legal grounds in that it is arbitrarily applied, it fails to recognize we make mistakes, it fails to save taxpayer dollars, and it fails to give victims the swift legal resolution they deserve. That’s why so many states are moving away from the death penalty.”
House Bill 1264 will not be retroactive, meaning it will not affect any crime committed before July 2013.
Robert Autobee, whose son Eric was a prison guard and killed by an inmate, said it’s time for repeal. Autobee was a prison guard himself and strongly supported capital punishment before his son’s murder. The capital punishment proceedings changed his mind.
“We spent more than 10 years and the state has spent millions trying to get death,” Autobee said. “We have decades of proceedings and appeals to go, so it gives my wife and I no time to focus on healing or working to stop violence in prisons.”
The letter signed by family members is included below:
REPEAL COLORADO’S DEATH PENALTY
for Murder Victims’ Families
Each of us has lost a family member to murder. At a moment none of us could have predicted or prepared for, tragedy robbed from us children, parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, and other family members. Our direct experiences with the criminal justice system and struggling with grief have led us all to the same conclusion: Colorado’s death penalty fails victims’ families.
We never asked to be in this position, and would do anything to change it. We realize, however, that nothing can erase the loss that a senseless act of violence brought into our lives. But we can honor the memory of our loved ones and other families who may face tragedy by working for effective responses to violence.
The reality of the death penalty is that it drags on for decades. In Colorado, only one person has been executed in the last forty years. Victims’ families in capital cases go back to court for years on end where the press replays the details of the crime again and again. The result is that the defendant is turned into a celebrity while the victim’s family waits for a punishment that never comes. This system burdens the vast majority of cases that don’t result in a death sentence.
The death penalty is said to be reserved for “particularly heinous murders.” We have difficulty understanding this position. The implication is that other murders are “ordinary.” From experience, we can tell you that to victims’ families, every murder is heinous. As the state hangs onto our broken death penalty system, it wastes millions of dollars that could go toward much-needed victims’ services. Instead of investing millions of dollars into a tiny percentage of capital cases, the state should invest in services that would benefit all victims.
As lawmakers consider whether to keep or end Colorado’s death penalty, we urge them to make the choice that best serves the interests of victims’ families. We hope they will conclude what we have: that the death penalty fails victims’ families. We urge them to repeal Colorado’s death penalty.
John Otte of Denver
Brother of murder victim, Thomas Otte
Lieutenant L. Hollis of Aurora
Uncle of murder victim, Faye Johnson
Brenda Carrasco of Denver
Cousin of murder victim, Brandon Cruz-Sigala
Flora Jean Perez of Denver
Aunt of murder victim, David Martinez
Thomas Granewald of Denver
Cousin of murder victim, David Martinez
Laura Harris of Denver
Best friend of murder victims, Christa and Brittany
Vincent Long of Centennial
Family member of a murder victim
Rebekah Miller of Westminster
Aunt of murder victim, Andrew Michael
Bob Autobee of Pueblo
Father of murder victim, Eric Autobee
Chena Rabb of Aurora
Niece of murder victim, Yvonne Rabb
Amy Plapp of Colorado Springs
Sister of murder victim, Steven F. Plapp
Alice Randolph of Denver
Mother of murder victim, Loren Anthony Collins
Babette Romero Miller of Lakewood
Aunt of murder victim, Antonio Ray Davalos
Carnita Groves of Aurora
Cousin of murder victim, Renee Dabney
Linda Burks-Brown of Denver
Sister of murder victim, Willie Frazier
Patsy Bjork of Colorado Springs
Daughter of murder victim, Shirly
Lani Duran of Colorado Springs
Daughter of murder victim, Pete Frow
Margaret Beck of Estes Park
Sister of murder victim,Chris
Dale Beck of Estes Park
Brother in law of murder victim, Christine Ann Clark
Arlis Kellar of Greeley
Sister of murder victim, Dwight Tobyne
Brian Kellar of Greeley
Brother in law of murder victim, Dwight Tobyne
Lisa Cisneros of Denver
Niece of murder victim, Fred Sanchez
Linda Gruno of Westminster
Sister of murder victim, Polly Elizabeth
Sean Gruno of Westminster
Nephew of murder victim, Polly Elizabeth
Greg Gruno of Westminster
Brother in law of murder victim, Polly Elizabeth
Victoria Baker Willford
Mother of murder victim, Carolyn Jansen of Aurora
Rosemary Harris Lytle of Colorado Springs
Daughter of murder victim, Johnnie Harris
Frank D. Lytle of Colorado Springs
Son in law of murder victim, Johnnie Harris
Courtney-Rose Harris of Colorado Springs
Daughter of murder victim, Johnnie Harris
Renee Hood of Denver
Sister of murder victim, Loren Anthony Collins