Attorneys file new challenge to Nathan Dunlap execution in Chuck E Cheese murder case

AURORA, Colo. - Attorneys for the man convicted of killing four people at a Colorado pizzeria in 1993 have launched another legal offensive to stave off his execution.

Nathan Dunlap's lawyers filed a lawsuit Thursday saying the way prison officials plan to put him to death could cause prolonged and excruciating pain, a violation of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In April, Dunlap attorneys' argued that the state developed the lethal injection execution procedure without public input. However, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the state that argued the lethal injection execution procedure falls under the duties of the prisons director and don't require public input.

Thursday's lawsuit also says officials are planning in secret for the execution, violating Dunlap's due process rights.

An Arapahoe County judge recently set Dunlap's execution for the week of Aug. 18-24. Prison officials will determine the actual date. Since Colorado reinstituted the death penalty in 1976, only one person has been executed. Gary Lee Davis was executed in 1997.

Dunlap has been on death row since 1996, when a jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to die for the shooting deaths at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora.

Dunlap's defense attorneys have also argued that Dunlap had an undiagnosed bipolar disorder when he committed the killings and therefore should not be executed.

"We will not stop trying to save Mr. Dunlap's life now or next week or the week after," said Phil Cherner, Dunlap's attorney, last month. "We represent a very remorseful client, and it is a tragedy that this thing is moving forward."

Dunlap's attorneys have released a video statement from Dunlap in prison. Dunlap has also written a letter to Governor John Hickenlooper pleading for his life, saying he feels regret, sadness and grief for the deadly shooting rampage.

"Even though it is difficult for me to say I'm sorry, I am sorry. I do feel regret, sadness and grief. Not for getting caught but what I've done. I'm sorry for the pain and suffering I've caused the victims' families and friends, Bobby Stephens and his family and friends, and my family and friends," Dunlap writes. Stephens, a pizza parlor employee, was shot in the face but ran to a nearby apartment and called police. He later identified Dunlap as the killer.

Hickenlooper hasn't said how he would respond to a request for clemency. He met last week with victims' family members and others to hear their views.

Dunlap took the lives of  night manager, Margaret Kohlberg, 50, a mother of two; Colleen O'Connor, 17; Sylvia Crowell, 19, and Benjamin Grant, 17.

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