Colorado Se­nate bill takes death penalty in wrong di­rec­tion.

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

It’s not easy get­ting a Colorado jury to reach unan­i­mous agree­ment that a killer should be put to death— in fact it’s be­come next to im­pos­si­ble even in cases of mass killings. But rather than re­sign them­selves to that re­al­ity, six pro­po­nents of the death penalty in the state Se­nate would rig the sys­tem to en­sure more crim­i­nals are put to death.

Per­haps “rig” is too harsh a word. But not by much. Low­er­ing the thresh­old for a death sen­tence from 12 jurors to nine, as is pro­posed in Se­nate Bill 64, is a huge shift. It would put Colorado in a small mi­nor­ity of states— Florida, Alabama and Delaware— that ei­ther don’t re­quire unan­i­mous ju­ries to im­pose a death sen­tence or al­low a judge to over­rule a jury that prefers a life sen­tence.

Sen. Kevin Lund­berg, RBerthoud, the bill’s lead spon­sor, freely ad­mits that frus­tra­tion with re­cent jury re­sults led him to this pro­posal.

“If any­thing was de­serv­ing of the death penalty, I’d say that’s it the Aurora ( the­ater) shoot­ing,” Lund­berg told 7News. “I think we need to come to terms with: Are we go­ing to have a death penalty that func­tions in Colorado or are we just go­ing to put it in name only and not re­ally have the death penalty?”

Lund­berg has a point in the sense that if ju­ries are un­will­ing to put to death the likes of James Holmes, the the­ater shooter, or Dex­ter Lewis, found guilty last year of five mur­ders at a bar in Den­ver, then the death penalty in its present form is no longer a vi­able op­tion in the over­whelm­ingly ma­jor­ity of mur­ders. But the log­i­cal re­sponse to that fact is to abol­ish the penalty, not lower the stan­dard un­der which it is im­posed.

It’s true, of course, that SB 64 would af­fect only the sen­tenc­ing phase of the trial and that a unan­i­mous jury would still be re­quired to find the de­fen­dant guilty of a cap­i­tal crime. But this isn’t just any sen­tence. It’s the only one that is ir­rev­o­ca­ble once car­ried out, the only one that nearly ev­ery­one rec­og­nizes is in a cat­e­gory of its own.

If a jury that finds a de­fen­dant guilty can’t agree that he de­serves the death sen­tence, then it shouldn’t be im­posed.

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