As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, the failure of Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler to win the death penalty phase of the trial of the Aurora theater mass murderer last year–a loss that contributed to Brauchler’s momentous decision to not run for the U.S. Senate this year–has provoked a controversial response from his Republican allies in the Colorado General Assembly.
And by controversial, we mean, well, bloodthirsty:
Currently it takes a unanimous vote of all 12 jurors, but Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud wants to get that number down a little lower. Like, maybe nine. Or 10. Or maybe 11 jurors. But not all 12. That just makes executing someone in Colorado too hard, he says. He doesn’t like the idea that one lone holdout could spoil a death sentence.
“If the policy is that the death penalty is appropriate for the worst of crimes, then a jury should not be composed of people who disagree with that basic point,” Lundberg told The Colorado Independent about his bill. Critics of the measure say it might not pass constitutional muster, and the bar shouldn’t be lowered for easing executions.
The senator will make the case for his legislation at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Senate calendar.
The Denver Post’s Jordan Steffen has more from the bill’s primary sponsor, GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Loveland:
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he is sponsoring the bill because he “wants to save lives” and have a penalty “that will cause the bad guy to think twice before they pull the trigger.”
…But critics peg the legislation — which could still be amended — as an effort to make it easier to obtain a death sentence.
“We require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all criminal charges to a unanimous jury,” said Colorado public defender Doug Wilson. “So (under the proposed bill) someone charged with shoplifting would get a unanimous jury, and yet when we decide we want to execute one of our citizens, we would leave it to a jury of less than 12.” [Pols emphasis]
At a time when capital punishment in the United States is under more scrutiny than at any point since it was relegalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and with so much controversy over the methods of execution in America and the possibility of wrongful executions, the idea of making it easier to execute people in any way seems radically counterintuitive. It’s even worse to think through the implications of executing someone over the objections of a sitting juror, which is apparently only possible in three states today. No matter how robbed Brauchler may feel over the three jurors who objected to imposing the death penalty in the Aurora shooting case, that is not something we think a majority of voters in Colorado would find morally conscionable.
In fact, this could get voters thinking about the death penalty in ways proponents won’t like at all.