Post interview spotlights Brauchler falsehood that he was “one vote away” from getting death sentence in Aurora trial

(Comes to light just days after Brauchler bailed out? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Excellent reporting today by The Denver Post’s Jordan Steffen, who breaks the news that three jurors in the Aurora theater trial voted affirmatively for life in prison, according to one of the three jurors, who was previously thought to have been undecided.

Steffen’s interview is beautifully written, giving you a great sense of the juror’s struggles and a journalist’s experience talking to her, but what caught my eye, as someone who listened to prosecutor George Brauchler repeatedly say he was “one vote away” from getting the death penalty, were these three paragraphs:

“There were three,” [the juror] said. “Not one.”

…Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has said he wouldn’t second-guess his decision to pursue the death penalty because of one juror’s position that led to the life sentence.

Last week, he said all of the deliberating jurors he’s spoken with have indicated that Juror 17’s account was accurate. He conceded that he hadn’t met with all of them.

More of an explanation from Brauchler would have been nice, because you have to wonder why a man of his intelligence and intensity would deliver rotten information about the jury count, without at least saying he wasn’t sure or acknowledging, as  juror 17 had clearly said after the trial, that juror 17 was against the death sentence and two jurors were undecided. That’s obviously three, not one, votes away from conviction.

Maybe Brauchler, who subsequently announced he wouldn’t challenge Sen. Michael Bennet, was just trying to make himself look good? But as a veteran prosecutor, he had to know that his misinformation could be hurting real people.

Steffen reported that the juror he interviewed ended “her silence because she could no longer bear to watch the weight of public scrutiny — what she described as a ‘witch hunt’ — fall solely on the shoulders of her fellow juror.”

Brauchler was partly responsible for the witch hunt, as today’s Post piece makes clear.

Polis Walks Back Campus Rape Comments

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Alex Burness reports, following up on a controversy we touched on over the weekend:

Congressman Jared Polis wrote in a column Tuesday that he “misspoke” last week when he suggested colleges should be able to expel students accused of sexual assault even if they’re innocent…

In a piece published online Tuesday by the Daily Camera and on, Polis called his remarks “a major gaffe” that “went too far.”

But he did not apologize for arguing last week that colleges may be wise to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard — a lower threshold than criminal courts would use — in deciding whether to punish or expel a student.

For one, that practice is already in place. As Polis notes in his column, the Department of Education required four years ago that schools use a standard based on preponderance of evidence to rid campuses of alleged sexual assailants.

A little more from Rep. Polis’ column published today:

I committed a major gaffe during the back-and-forth exchange with a witness who was advocating for removing the authority of colleges to adjudicate sexual assault cases that happen on their campuses. My words did not convey my beliefs nor the policies I now or have ever supported

During that exchange I went too far by implying that I support expelling innocent students from college campuses, which is something neither I nor other advocates of justice for survivors of sexual assault support. That is not what I meant to say and I apologize for my poor choice of words…

To most people who don’t know much about this issue, it makes sense to solely adjudicate these cases in our criminal justice system, just like we do other crimes…this is a deeply dangerous idea that demonstrates a cursory and superficial understanding of the issue. Ask any sexual assault advocate and they’ll tell you the same thing.

As we noted last Sunday and Rep. Polis tried to clarify after his remarks became controversial late last week, at no point was he suggesting that a lower standard of proof be allowable for criminal convictions of rape. And as Polis makes clear in his column today, colleges already use a lower standard of proof than the strict “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal proceedings when investigating alleged sexual assaults. Polis explained that his statements were in response to a witness who asserted that law enforcement should handle all sexual assault investigations on campus, instead of the status quo allowing colleges to conduct investigations with a “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof.

In the context of Rep. Polis arguing against requiring only the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard be used in sexual assault investigations, his remarks make a bit more sense, but in hindsight it does appear his remarks did more to confound the popular debate over responding to sexual assault allegations than to elucidate it (as he admitted in his apology). It’s just too easy for the criminal justice system’s protection of the rights of the accused to be invoked here, which of course makes Polis look pretty bad–unless you understand that a different standard already applies, and for good reasons. Nobody wants to see innocent people punished, but the issue is not so clear cut that you can say with confidence a strict criminal evidentiary standard is called for in all cases. Sometimes that’s just not what’s needed to get justice.

In the end, we think this episode is a good lesson in why word choice is very, very important.

Coloradans Not So Bloodthirsty After All?

Lethal injection chamber.

Lethal injection chamber.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling, which is generally considered a Democratic-aligned polling outfit but has won many plaudits for accuracy over the years, has a new poll out challenging the conventional wisdom that Colorado voters overwhelmingly favor capital punishment. As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports:

Colorado voters appear split on whether the death penalty should remain in place, a new poll finds, a result that may indicate support for capital punishment is softening in the state.

The survey comes amid a conversation about the future of the death penalty in Colorado after juries in two high-profile trials opted against imposing it.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, asked voters last week whether the state should replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. The survey found 47.2 percent favor keeping the death penalty and 42.9 percent want to replace it — a difference that is essentially within the margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

An additonal 10 percent remained undecided, according to the poll, which was commissioned by the Better Priorities Initiative, a Colorado-based group that opposes the death penalty.

Boulder County DA Stan Garnett.

Boulder County DA Stan Garnett.

A press release from the Better Priorities Initiative quotes Boulder DA Stan Garnett:

“This poll shows that Coloradans have grown weary of this wasteful government program that prolongs victims’ suffering, provides little to no deterrent effect, and ultimately yields no executions,” said Stan Garnett, District Attorney for the 20th Judicial District. “As Coloradans continue to have this statewide conversation about the death penalty, they are concluding they can live without it.”

These findings come on the heels of the state’s two highest profile death penalty cases in many years. In both cases, the death-qualified juries determined that life in prison without the possibility of parole was the appropriate sentence for the perpetrators instead of death by lethal injection. The juries’ rejection of the death penalty in both the Aurora theatre shooting and the Fero’s Bar stabbing fall in line with national trends that show a marked decrease in the number of death sentences handed down by juries, which reached a 40-year low nationwide in 2014.

Garnett went on to say, “As a District Attorney who has the responsibility of managing a large office of lawyers and staff, I always focus on what is efficient and what keeps my community safe. The reality is that the death penalty is wasteful and does nothing to make our communities safer. Tough and focused prosecutors across Colorado are coming to the same conclusion.”

The poll stands in marked contrast to another poll taken during the recently-concluded trial of the Aurora theater shooter, in which over 60% percentage of respondents indicated they favored the death penalty in that case. The most recent round of debates over the death penalty has raged in Colorado since well before this summer, however, after Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to the so-called “Chuck E. Cheese killer” who had been scheduled to be executed in 2013.

It was widely assumed that Hickenlooper’s decision to grant a reprieve in that case would cost him politically. In last year’s gubernatorial election, GOP opponent Bob Beauprez used Hickenlooper’s decision in campaign ads to paint the incumbent as “soft on crime”–a similar tactic to what Beauprez had unsuccessfully tried against Bill Ritter in 2006. It didn’t work, in part because Beauprez’s ugly negative campaign had begun to backfire on a variety of issues.

Or maybe the issue just doesn’t have the purchase with voters that we all thought?

Today’s poll asked Coloradans what they think would be the most important issue in deciding how to vote for their state legislator next year. The death penalty barely registered, with only 5% of voters saying the issue would guide their vote, and other issues like the economy and health care scoring far higher. This again would seem to indicate that the death penalty is not nearly the marquee issue that Republicans have claimed–against Hickenlooper, or in support of either the policy or politicians like George Brauchler who have significant political capital invested in support for capital punishment.

The death penalty is one of those emotive issues where polling can swing wildly based on contemporary issues. When it seemed likely that the Aurora shooter would receive it, polling suggests voters liked it better. Now that the death penalty has failed to be applied in our state, in two cases where conventional wisdom would surely suggest the law warranted it?

It’s possible this debate has entered a new phase.

GOP Uses Cheap Scare Tactics To Dodge Gitmo Legacy

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports–a new proposal to transfer foreign combatants presently being held under dubious legal circumstances from the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Colorado’s Florence “Supermax” ultra-secure federal prison, which was floated previously as President Barack Obama has tried to find a way to close the Guantanamo Bay’s controversial detention center, is meeting fierce resistance once again from Republican lawmakers in our state:

Colorado shouldn’t allow terrorists now held at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be transferred to the federal Supermax prison in Cañon City, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said Saturday…

“The war on terror hasn’t been won,” he said in an interview. “This is not a criminal. This is a terrorist. This is somebody who has declared war on the United States of America, and I think the appropriate response is to leave that in the control of the military. Keep (Guantanamo Bay) open.”

Tipton, however, expects President Barack Obama to “do whatever he wants,” but urged him to listen to Congress and keep the prisoners where they are.

Gardner also called on the White House not to close the military prison.

“The Guantanamo facility houses some of the world’s worst international terrorists, and it’s critical that we keep them there,” he said in a statement. “That this reckless and irresponsible idea is being considered at all by officials in the Obama administration shows a careless disregard for the safety and security of Coloradans.”

Supermax, Florence, Colorado.

Supermax, Florence, Colorado.

But as the Denver Post’s editorial board replied yesterday, that’s a bunch of fearmongering claptrap:

If that’s the case, then we’d better go home and bolt the doors, because the worst of the worst are mostly already here. Among them:

Ramzi Yousef and four other al-Qaeda operatives convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing; Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; and Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted as part of the 9/11 conspiracy.

Also, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber; Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber”; Umar Abdulmutallab, the “Underwear Bomber; Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber; and Ahmed Ressam, an al-Qaeda operative convicted in the 2000 millennium plots.

Oh, and did we mention al-Qaeda operatives involved in the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa?

As host to the nation’s most secure federal prison, affectionately known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” Colorado already has the nation’s biggest, and maybe the world’s biggest after Guantanamo itself, population of internationally-recognized high profile terrorists–including high profile members of Al Qaeda and a 9/11 conspirator. Back in 2009, when President Obama was first looking to close Guantanamo’s detention center, then-Gov. Bill Ritter was heavily criticized by local Republicans, including then-state Rep. Cory Gardner, for saying he would not oppose the transfer of Guantanamo Bay inmates to Colorado. Gardner infamously warned of a “pipeline of terror from Kabul to Colorado,” a preview of the kind of scare-tactic rhetoric he has frequently employed since then as he pursued higher office.

The real problem, both in 2009 and today, is one that the Denver Post only indirectly references in their editorial:

We don’t think Florence is the best location, either, but not because terrorists don’t belong there. Convicted terrorists absolutely belong there, and are there. But the Guantanamo detainees are enemy combatants. They aren’t convicted [Pols emphasis] and, if they can’t be released to another country, they should be housed at a military prison on the mainland…

The biggest problem with the inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention center is, of course, their extralegal status. Because most detainees at Gitmo have not been convicted of a crime, with many being cases that cannot be tried under American criminal law due to jurisidictional problems or circumstances of their legally questionable detention, transferring them to the United States could become highly problematic–especially for American politicians who have essentially argued for over a decade that Gitmo detainees have no legal rights.

Once you realize that the fear being blown up our collective kazoos by Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton has no rational basis, these much less savory motives become easy to see. It’s quite possible that there won’t be a solution to the Gitmo detainee question during Obama’s presidency, or even while Republicans remain in control of Congress.

But history is going to judge this someday, folks. And history won’t be kind to the fearmongers.

Polis Rape Remarks Stoke Necessary (?) Controversy

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

MONDAY UPDATE: Rep. Polis himself answers some questions in the comment section below.


It’s been a hot topic for a couple of days now, as the Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez reported late last week:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said Thursday that colleges should be able to use a lower standard of proof to expel students accused of sexual assaults on campus…

“If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” Polis said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.”

A private college, Polis also argued, may want to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard or lower threshold, such as a “likelihood standard.”

“If I was running one I might say, well you know, even if there is only a 20 or 30 percent chance that it happened, I would want to remove this individual,” he said.

The audience at the hearing applauded his stance at one point, but the remark drew a sharp reaction from critics.

“Sharp reaction” may be a bit of an understatement. The fierce debate over laws and due process rights in sexual assault cases has pitched wildly back and forth in recent years, as an increasing preponderance of evidence that rape is a huge problem on college campuses is pushed back on by a vocal and generally conservative “men’s rights” movement. Anecdotal events like questionable reporting by Rolling Stone about a rape case at the University of Virginia are misused to discredit a mountain of statistical data. New individual studies released on the subject are immediately attacked by a robust internet and popular media culture of self-reinforcing rape apologetics.

Into this fraught debate steps Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, who with his characteristic machete-through-red-tape attitude declares that a lower burden of proof may be sufficient in some cases for some schools, as he disclaimed it private schools. Polis Tweeted not long after, clarifying again that he wasn’t talking about a criminal burden of proof. Pundits from the Boulder Daily Camera to the Washington Post nonetheless have reacted more or less in rhetorical horror, warning of the loss of fundamental due process rights for the accused this would invite, and scoffing at the idea that having to change schools is a minor inconvenience for persons accused of rape.

For our part, we feel obliged to err on the side of sensitivity toward victims of sexual assault, recognizant of the struggles faced historically and today with a culture that tends to excuse or at least downplay this pervasive crime in too many cases. That means we’re not going to criticize Rep. Polis for making what we know many readers will believe is staking out controversial but necessary ground–in a debate that sorely needs better acknowledgement of what rape victims face seeking justice.

For those who are going to disagree, the comment section is open for you too.

Tim Neville Wields a Mighty Wrench in Republican Senate Field

That's a big-ass wrench, Tim Neville.

That’s a big-ass wrench, Tim Neville.

The big (BIG) news today in Colorado politics is State Sen. Tim Neville embarking on a “listening tour” in preparation for a run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Considering the number of events — across the state — that Neville already has planned, it’s a safe bet that he’s already heard enough to convince him to seek the Republican nomination against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver).

As we wrote earlier today when news was breaking about Neville’s likely candidacy, this is a decision that throws a giant wrench into the entire process by which Republicans had been trying (and failing) to recruit a top-tier Senate candidate for 2016.

Colorado political news in the last week has largely been focused on efforts by Republicans to recruit Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler into the 2016 Senate race. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among those in the GOP publicly pushing for a Brauchler candidacy, as he told Politico on Tuesday:

“I think if he ran for the Senate, he’d be someone who a lot of Republicans could get behind — including myself,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who unseated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in a hotly contested race last year. “I think there are a lot of people who are very interested in this race. I think a lot of them are waiting on George Brauchler.” [Pols emphasis]

Republicans have already been through 15-20 different names in their search for a 2016 Senate candidate, so there couldn’t have been a lot of people waiting on Brauchler. We started to hear over the last couple of days that Brauchler was not comfortable being pushed to make a decision on a Senate run after just concluding the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial, and now that Neville has signaled his intentions, Brauchler can bow out of the race without leaving Republicans searching for a candidate.

In fact, we’d go so far as to say that Brauchler probably should decline a Senate bid now that Neville is involved; beating Bennet in a General Election is a big feat in itself, but first beating Neville in a Republican Primary is another matter altogether. Brauchler can run for re-election as District Attorney in 2016 if he doesn’t chase a Senate seat, and then take his time in preparation for a 2018 run for Governor — which is what Brauchler really wants. This option is a no-brainer now that Brauchler can no longer count on a relatively-uncontested GOP Primary for Senate; Brauchler could lose to Neville in a Primary and not even keep his seat as District Attorney, and his political career would effectively be off the rails for years to come. A loss to Neville all but guarantees that Brauchler wouldn’t be able to mount a serious campaign for Governor two years later.

We’ve long thought that it was probably only a matter of time before somebody scratched out the math on a napkin and realized that Neville can win a Republican Primary. With heavy support in bellwether Jefferson County, and with his son, Rep. Patrick Neville, working Republicans in Douglas County, Neville has two of the most important (and largely-populated) counties in his pocket. Neville would almost certainly have the support of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) as well; he has a strong relationship with RMGO head Dudley Brown, and one of Neville’s sons works as RMGO’s political director. Finally, Neville is a darling of the religious right. Any way you look at it, Neville would be the frontrunner in a GOP Senate Primary, where he is far more likely than Brauchler to attract the support of the Tea Party groups and other reliable Republican supporters.

Can Neville beat Bennet in a General Election? That’s an analysis for another day. All that matters right now is that Neville can win a Republican Primary, and his presence may be enough to essentially clear the GOP field.


BREAKING: Sen. Tim Neville Weighing U.S. Senate Bid

UPDATE #2: Liberal activist group ProgressNow Colorado calls Tim Neville “the most dangerous politician in Colorado.” Will he take that as a compliment?

As news broke today that far-right Colorado Sen. Tim Neville is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, warned Colorado voters against being deceived by one of the state’s most dangerous far-right politicians.

“Tim Neville in the United States Senate would be the most dangerous politician in America,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Senator Neville is more than just another vote to repeal Obamacare, to ban all abortions without exception, and to repeal all laws against gun violence. Neville represents the no-compromise, take-no-prisoners wing of the Republican Party that will bring the loudest voices of the Tea Party into the mainstream.”


UPDATE 1:05PM: The Denver Post’s John Frank now reporting:

Neville is considered one of the most conservative members in the state Senate. He defeated an incumbent Democrat in a swing seat in 2014 to win the seat. His campaign would appeal to hard-right conservatives and those aligned with the tea party.

An invite to a Tuesday event for Neville hosted by real estate agent Mike Donahue at his Lakewood office described the lawmaker as a “highly principled patriot.”

…Neville is scheduled to talk to conservatives 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Denver VFW on West Warren Avenue. Ray Garcia is listed at the host.


Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville.

We started hearing rumors in the last 24 hours about the possibility that Colorado Sen. Tim Neville, who represents mountain areas of Jefferson County and Front Range gambling towns, would shortly declare a run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 against incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

Late yesterday, confirmation of Neville’s interest began to circulate on social media:

Please Join me for A Meet and Greet with Senator Tim Neville regarding Conversations about the Colorado U.S. Senate race.

Saturday, Sept 12th, 1:00-3:00pm (Lunch Provided)
Hosted by
Frank and Christy Rodriguez
& Representative Lori Saine

1019 10th Ave
Greeley, CO 80631
R.S.V.P 970.599.0037

Senator Neville is considering a run for
the U.S. Senate to defeat liberal extremist
Senator Michael Bennett.

•Senator Neville has proven he can win in a highly
targeted competitive district.

•Senator Neville has highly regarded principles and a
proven voting record.

•Senator Neville is well known and respected
throughout Colorado communities.

Neville’s entry into the U.S. Senate race could indeed be a game-changing development. Neville’s support among the conservative wing of the Republican Party is very strong, and he enjoys a close relationship with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization whose power in GOP primary elections has been demonstrated repeatedly. In this year’s legislative session, Neville arguably had the highest profile of any Republican state senator, energizing the Republican grassroots with uncompromising positions on everything from guns to “freedom” of school children to decline vaccinations. Neville’s base of support in Jefferson County is also a powerful advantage that he would enjoy in a statewide Republican primary.

Back in June when the GOP’s first choice Rep. Mike Coffman opted to not run for the U.S. Senate next year, we identified Neville as one of a few names to watch. Neville wouldn’t be up for election to his SD-16 seat until 2018, so there’s no risk in running for higher office next year. And Neville’s strong support from RMGO and the conservative grassroots make him a formidable candidate who could actually win this primary–a fact that might be enough to dissuade a challenger before they emerge.

Bottom line: Neville has the clout to factor in this race, especially compared to alternatives left after so many have opted against running. Above all, he can’t be manhandled any more than Dudley Brown himself. He will feel no deference at all to George Brauchler, or anyone else Republican Party elites might decide they prefer.

So go make some popcorn, folks. One hell of a show is about to begin.

Guandolo, you fool, I like hummus, not HAMAS….

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

John Guandolo.

John Guandolo.

John Guandolo, professional Muslim-hater, is pumping up the pity party. After his “Understanding the Threat” presentation at the Centennial Gun Club didn’t get quite the attendance he would have liked, he blamed HAMAS. According to Guandolo the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Southern Poverty Law Center, and anyone else who published articles calling him an “Islamophobe”….including me – is working with HAMAS.

Yes, dear readers, your very own middle-aged schoolmarm blogger is now, according to Mr.Guandolo, in league with HAMAS. And I thought I had only expressed a preference for hummus. Because hummus is yummus.

In fact, I did call Guandolo an Islamophobe, which means someone with an irrational fear of Islam. I don’t know how I could have been more precise. However, his headline blared:

UTT Trains Hundreds in Colorado Despite Efforts by Hamas

Guandolo falsely contends that Islamophobia is a capital crime under Sharia law, and that therefore, his life is in danger. He also claims to have called the FBI to defend him from these “threats”, but, alas,

Calls and emails to the FBI by UTT concerning these threats continue to be ignored.

(Perhaps it has something to do with him shagging a witness and getting kicked out of the FBI?)

I never received any confirmation from the Denver Police Department about whether or not they were granting officers inservice credit for attending Mr. Guandolo’s “training” on how to racially profile Muslims. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman never returned my calls or emails, either.


This Really Isn’t That Complicated, Brauchlerites

George Brauchler and TwitterThis is not a story about the death penalty.

This is not a commentary on the American legal system.

This is about a very simple, logical, and straightforward concept that seems to be eluding Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and his political defenders who have been working hard to move the goalposts in the wake of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial. Brauchler did not get the outcome he was seeking in the trial, and any attempt to spin this as something other than a political loss is nonsense.

We normally don’t pay much attention to the inane crayon scribbles over at Colorado Peak Politics, but their recent rantings about Brauchler and his political future are actually a pretty good example of the absurdly illogical spin that we’ve seen in the last week or so.

We’ve written several times in this space that Brauchler’s political future was dealt a severe blow when an Aurora jury declined to recommend the death penalty for convinced shooter James Holmes (Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ultimately sentenced Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure). The politically-ambitious Brauchler made a controversial decision last year to seek the death penalty for Holmes instead of accepting a plea deal that would have sent Holmes to prison for the rest of his life. Reaction was mixed to Brauchler’s decision, because accepting a plea agreement would have saved millions of dollars in taxpayer money and spared some of the victims and their families who didn’t want to relive that fateful night in July 2012.

Politically-speaking, Brauchler had a lot to gain from a successful death penalty prosecution, and you can’t seriously argue otherwise. It’s only logical, then, that Brauchler would lose some political luster if he did not get the verdict he was seeking. We’re not talking about anybody (other than Holmes) being viewed as a moral loser here — this is strictly politics, laid out from the perspective of a political blog


Colorado’s Death Penalty Teeters on Brink of Irrelevance

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s editorial board says “the death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired.”

There will never be crimes any worse than those committed by Holmes and Lewis. There may be crimes that are their equal in cruelty, but how often are they likely to occur? And why should those criminals be put to death if Holmes and Lewis were not?

Is the death penalty really only for people who commit crimes of similar magnitude who are neither mentally ill nor the product of childhood abuse? How often do such monsters come around?

The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn’t happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.


sir-mario-owens-nathan-dunlap-robert-rayThe Denver Post reports on the final decision yesterday by a jury in yet another Colorado death penalty case, this one in Denver related to the murders of five people in October of 2012 during a botched robbery attempt at Fero’s Bar and Grill:

When a Denver jury on Thursday spared a convicted mass killer the death penalty, a confused silence enveloped the courtroom. Dexter Lewis, who stabbed five people to death in 2012, will spend the rest of his life in prison…

Almost three years after Lewis joined in on a robbery that spiraled into a gruesome massacre, the case came to a blunt and dazed ending.

After deliberating for less than three hours Thursday, at least one member of the jury of 10 women and two men found that the details of Lewis’ life that suggested mercy — including chronic abuse and neglect — outweighed the heinous details of the crime that suggested death.

The decision yesterday to sentence convicted murderer Dexter Lewis to life in prison instead of the death sentence sought by prosecutors comes just weeks after a jury in Arapahoe County failed to agree on a death sentence for the killer in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre. Both of these high-profile cases represent circumstances that the prosecutors believed merited the ultimate punishment. But in both cases, at least one juror could not be convinced, and that ended the question of imposing a death sentence.

Lethal injection chamber.

Lethal injection chamber.

Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent opines today that these outcomes further delegitimize capital punishment as a viable means of seeking justice, even as public polls show the idea of capital punishment still enjoys broad support in this state:

If Lewis and Holmes don’t get death, who does? It’s with that question — and with the near-certain answer — that the conversation almost certainly has to end…

Colorado has executed one person in the past 48 years. It currently has three people on death row. There’s no deterrence argument left, if there ever was one. For that matter, it’s hard to see where there’s a justice argument left.

It’s a punishment that is used so rarely — with decades-long waits on death row for the few assigned there — that any execution now seems to be little more than random, an accident of time or place. And a random punishment, as Supreme Court Justice Steve Breyer recently wrote, can’t, by definition, be just. He called it “the antithesis of justice.”

…John Hickenlooper made that decision himself in the case of Nathan Dunlap, granting him a “temporary reprieve” rather than letting an execution go forward. He didn’t say that Dunlap deserved any form of mercy. He wouldn’t even bring himself to use Dunlap’s name. Hickenlooper said his problem was with the system of capital punishment and whether it delivers the justice that it promises. He said you can’t have an imperfect system and also have justice.

The imperfections are there for all to see, in matters of race, gender and class. It’s no wonder that only seven states executed anyone last year. The botched execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett led the Nebraska legislature, of all places, to end the death penalty there, even overriding a governor’s veto to make it happen.

There’s little question that the outcomes of these two high-profile death penalty cases will affect the debate over capital punishment in Colorado next year: in the legislature, and maybe at the polls as well. It’s worth remembering that at the same time Gov. John Hickenlooper was contemplating a reprieve for the “Chuck E. Cheese killer,” which he granted in May of 2013, his office helped scuttle legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. There were a number of factors that went into Hickenlooper’s tapping the brakes on repeal of the death penalty in 2013, not least the already very ambitious slate of bills that had passed that year–including the hotly controversial gun safety bills that would later provoke recalls against Democrats state senators.

Bottom line: a poll in late July, just before the verdict in the Aurora theater trial, showed that over 60% of Coloradans supported the death penalty in that case. But today, with the Aurora shooter headed to prison for life and now the killer in the gruesome Fero’s Bar massacre also spared the death penalty, the question becomes whether the death penalty still works at all: as a punishment, a deterrent, or even a workable means of obtaining satisfaction for victims. At least one Aurora victim’s relative has been vocal about the wasted effort, expense, and emotional trauma of seeking the death penalty, only for the jury to impose a sentence that defense attorneys had offered over a year before.

At the very least, you have to concede that Hickenlooper’s postponement of the one execution he would have been responsible for looks very different today after these other arguably more vicious killers’ lives have been spared. And as one of the last “civilized” places on earth that still judicially kills people, these events provide context for a debate that may really be, in the long arc of history, in its final stages.

What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump… (more…)

Denver Police asked to Boycott anti-Muslim “Training” in Centennial

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Police are being asked not to attend an anti-Muslim “Training” session tonight, put on by known bigot and Islamophobe John Guandolo.

RMGO’s flyer for the Centennial Gun Club event August 13-15

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, put out this press release today:

In an email sent today to a number of Denver-area police departments, CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper wrote:

“CAIR formally requests that your department investigate whether or not any officers will take Mr. Guandolo’s training and whether you believe the biased and agenda-driven presentations he offers will be of any benefit to your officers or to the communities they serve.”

Earlier this year, CAIR welcomed the withdrawal of an FBI representative from an event in Texas that was initially sponsored by the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! for America and featured Guandolo.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is sponsoring these “training sessions” at the Centennial Gun Club tonight, August 13, 14, and 15. I wrote to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman July 24, asking her to prohibit law enforcement from attending training to learn how to racially profile people, when I published this diary about Guandolo’s event. I never received a reply. Today, I called Denver Police Public Information to find out their response to the CAIR email on indoctrination of their officers. Again, no response. 

Guandolo makes a living spreading hate and fear of Muslims.

Southern Poverty Law Center considers Guandolo to be a spokesperson for hate groups.  Guandolo, kicked out of the FBI for having a sexual affair with a witness, claims that “Muslims do not have First Amendment rights to anything.” Fellow bigot Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy is worried about Somali nationals packing meat in Greeley; At the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Gaffney said:

I don’t know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States.

– Southern Poverty Law Center, Disgraced Former FBI Agent….

Four other states – Kansas, Texas, Arizona, and Virginia –  have prohibited these nuts from spreading their views, at least to police officers and public officials on the public’s payroll. Guandolo’s organization certainly is a “hate group”, and should not be spreading anti-Muslim bigotry and racial / religious profiling in Colorado.

The Nuge Joins Forces With Ken Buck

Ted Nugent.

Ted Nugent.

Back in April, we took note of a photo Tweeted by Rep. Ken Buck from his Washington, D.C. office, proudly holding an AR-15 assault rifle with Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. This photo struck us as a bit curious, since Washington, D.C. has very strict gun laws that outlaw Buck’s AR-15 rifle and the 30-round magazine attached to it.

After a morning of interesting back and forth between inquiring reporters and the D.C. Attorney General’s office, who at first insisted the weapon was illegal and that they were “looking into” the matter, the U.S. Capitol Police stated they had allowed Buck to display the weapon in his office under “regulations” that permit members of Congress and their staff to possess unloaded guns on Capitol grounds. The manner of how that regulation comports with local D.C. law was left unresolved, but Rep. Buck still has his AR-15 on display in the Cannon Office Building by all accounts.

Curiously, though, today we received this fundraising email blast on Rep. Buck’s behalf from aging rock star and famous “gun guy” Ted Nugent, which seems to imply a very different outcome to last April’s little brouhaha:

If we don’t stand our ground, Barack Obama (or worse, President Hillary Clinton) will take away our guns that we rely on to defend our homes, families, and country.

That’s why I need you to hear something completely insane…

You know they tried to toss a US Congressman in jail for having his legally owned AR-15 in his office?

That’s right – my friend Congressman Ken Buck was under investigation by the Washington, DC, Metro Police because the city’s Left-wing gun regulations are so restrictive, most people can’t even legally exercise their God-given Constitutional right to bear arms (even in a private place like your office)!

He put a picture online of Congressman Trey Gowdy and himself admiring his awesome American flag wrapped AR-15 and some vindictive liberal gun-hater sent it to the police. The rest is history…

Rep. Ken Buck (right), with his gun.

Rep. Ken Buck (right), with his gun.

So, if The Nuge means this blog when he says “some vindictive liberal gun-hater,” because we were the ones who posted the photo of Buck with his AR-15 that led to news inquiries, we guess that’s one thing. But in terms of the rest of the story “being history,” well, our readers know that Ken Buck didn’t face any charges or sanctions for his assault rifle on Capitol grounds–in fact, it’s still there.

But that version of the story, otherwise known as the true story, wouldn’t raise nearly as much money.

That’s why I’m helping Congressman Ken Buck. He’s a guy we can trust who will fight for the values we share – especially when it comes to the 2nd Amendment. Hell, they tried to get him thrown into jail for exercising his Second Amendment rights!

That’s my kind of guy. Bold, brave, and packing heat in his office to scare off liberals.

As our longtime readers know, this isn’t the first time that The Nuge has weighed in on a Colorado political matter. Ted Nugent endorsed Tom Tancredo for governor in 2014, which because a lively sidenote in that race after Nugent denounced President Barack Obama in a radio interview as a “communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.” Nugent also said of our state following the passage of 2013’s gun safety bills, “if ever there was a poster child for apathy, disconnect, laziness, and abandonment of We the People, and moral dereliction, it is Colorado.”

We can assume from the former statement that Nugent, like Buck, “loses his appetite” in the presence of America’s first black president. But we would kind of like to know if Buck agrees with Nugent in his assessment of the state Buck represents in Congress.

Needless to say, we hope not.

Yes, George Brauchler Is Damaged Goods Now

UPDATE: Via Jason Salzman, Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler goes off the rails today on talk radio, blaming pretty much everybody but himself for losing the death penalty case. Safe to say this was not his finest performance–a telling look at what happens when the shine comes off the “golden boy.”


Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

As word spread on Friday that the jury in the Aurora theater shooting trial would not sentence the shooter to death, we noted via Twitter that this result is a major defeat for Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler. Brauchler’s higher political ambitions are very well known, after he was mentioned as a potential GOP challenger to Gov. John Hickenlooper last year–and as Republicans have faced big problems finding a candidate to run next year against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, Brauchler’s name has been invoked in that race as well.

It’s not that we were trying to be crass about this story. We’re a political blog, and politics is the angle we are expected to take on the events of the day.

As our friend Lynn Bartels suggests above, the verdict in the Aurora shooting case could have gone either way–and might have had very different political implications had the jury chosen to recommend a death sentence. But the fact is that Brauchler did pursue the death penalty despite an offer from the defense of an uncontested sentence of life in prison with no possibility of release–and that unsuccessful pursuit of death for the Aurora theater shooter extended the pain and expense of the process by over a year and millions of dollars.

Friday evening, 9NEWS devoted a news story entirely to the Tweets of Jordan Ghawi, the brother of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, in which Jordan Ghawi condemned Brauchler’s “political ambition trumping reason.” After the verdict, Ghawi thanked jurors for “letting reason and not emotion guide you in your decision.” Naturally, opinions vary markedly among survivors and family of Aurora shooting victims as to whether or not the killer should have been sentenced to death. But Ghawi’s powerful statements against more killing in response to the death of his sister, and calling out of the “political ambition” that drove the decision to seek the death penalty, at least partly deprive Brauchler of the ability to claim the moral high ground now that the killer has been spared.

Indeed, the only real story of misconduct related to the Aurora shooting trial involves Brauchler himself. During the trial, Brauchler was harshly criticized by Judge Carlos Samour for Tweeting about the trial from the courtroom. Brauchler’s ill-advised Tweets violated the judge’s order against social media from the courtroom, led directly to the dismissal of three jurors from the trial, and was later the subject of a complaint filed with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Republican defenders of Brauchler tried hard to downplay this incident, but after jurors were dismissed over it, there was little for Brauchler to do but take his lumps.

Politically, that misstep might have been forgotten basking in the “glory” of a death sentence, but Brauchler did not win a death sentence. The additional months and millions of dollars spent “needlessly” at trial, as Jordan Ghawi put it, were all for naught. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you supported the death penalty in this case or opposed it. Today the story is only that the Aurora shooter will not be executed, and that Brauchler had some moments of bad publicity on the way to losing the death penalty case.

No matter how much you may like Brauchler, feel like he did the “best he could,” or (the one that probably matters most) need him to shore up a dwindling Republican bench in Colorado, this outcome does not set Brauchler up to run for higher office.

And we all know it.

BREAKING: Aurora Shooter Avoids Death Penalty


The woman, known as juror 17, did not want to give her name. She says there was one firm holdout on the jury who did not want to sentence the shooter to death. Juror 17 says two others were on the fence.

“That person was solidly in that position we learned,” she said. “They weren’t sure but they probably would have discussed it further had the other juror not been solidly in favor of the life sentence.”

She said the holdout juror was a woman, but did not give the number of the juror. She believes mental illness may have been an issue.

Aurora Sentinel:

District Attorney George Brauchler was joined by Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz and Aurora Fire Chief Mike Garcia, flanked by family members of the shooting victims, outside the courthouse Friday evening as he expressed his disappointment in the verdict.

“While I am disappointed with the outcome, I am not disappointed with the system,” he said.

As for the potential plea deal the defense offered shortly after he took office in early 2013, Brauchler said he was “open minded” to the idea. But, he said he told defense lawyers that if he was going to consider a deal, he would need to see Holmes’ medical records, the notebook he mailed to his therapist, and have a doctor of his choice examine Holmes.

The defense refused, he said.


Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Huge and unexpected news out of Arapahoe County this evening, Denver Post:

James Holmes will spend the rest of his life in a prison cell instead of dying in an execution chamber, jurors in the Aurora movie theater shooting trial decided Friday.

After deliberating for less than seven hours over two days, the jury of nine women and three men failed to unanimously agree that death is the appropriate punishment. The disagreement means Judge Carlos Samour Jr. will sentence Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of 12 people at the Century Aurora 16 theater three years ago.

We’ll update with statements and coverage as they come in–but clearly a major defeat for Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, who pushed for the death penalty in this case with higher political aspirations in mind and appears to have lost big. Here’s a Tweet from Jordan Ghawi, brother of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi from before the verdict was announced:

Stay tuned for more information. This decision will have a lasting impact on Colorado politics.