Bid to eliminate Colorado death penalty in trouble
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” A bid to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado and use the savings to solve cold cases appears to be unraveling as the legislative session winds down.
The Senate preliminarily voted Monday to remove all references to the death penalty from the bill and instead use a new fee on traffic and criminal violations to fund cold case investigations.
The vote won’t be official until senators wrap up their business for the day, which wasn’t expected until late Monday evening. Backers could try again to persuade some senators to change their minds and go back to the original version of the bill.
If the Senate ends up passing a bill that only addresses cold cases, it still would have to go back to the House for approval. Members of the House, who passed the original bill by just one vote, could agree to the change or both sides could try to work out a compromise.
Democratic state Rep. Paul Weissmann, the House sponsor of the bill, said prosecutors are going to need more resources than those provided by the compromise.
“Sure, I’m disappointed that the death penalty piece went away, but if they can find a way to fund the cold case part of it, I’m very happy,” he said.
Five Democrats voted with Republicans to back overhauling the bill in the Senate at the suggestion of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. The former police chief said he was “struggling mightily” with the bill as a whole and didn’t think spending money on a statewide cold case unit would help solve crimes.
His successful amendment puts a $2.50 fee on all traffic tickets and criminal convictions to raise about $1 million a year. The money would be distributed in grants to local police agencies, which he said were in a better position to solve such cases.
Morse said he proposed the change because there didn’t seem to be enough votes to pass the bill with the death penalty ban in it. Morse recounted some of the murder cases he investigated as a police officer during the debate and later said that he wasn’t sure how he would have voted had the death penalty remained in the bill.