Death Penalty Stays In Colorado

New Money Found For Cold Case Investigations

The Colorado Senate rejected a proposal Monday to eliminate the death penalty, and use the money to investigate cold cases.

Instead, new money has been found to investigate unsolved crimes.

The compromise plan meant lawmakers didn't have to vote on the controversial issue of capitol punishment.

Both sides had lobbied undecided lawmakers on the issue.

In Floor debate, the senate sponsor, Sen. Morgan Carroll D-Aurora said lawmakers would have "blood on their hands" if an innocent person were executed.

Colorado has executed only one person in the past 42 years, Gary Lee Davis in 1997. Two men are currently on the state's death row but the bill wouldn't change their sentences.

Gov. Bill Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, hasn't publicly said whether he would sign the bill if it passes.

As district attorney, the Democrat unsuccessfully sought the death penalty seven times. Before becoming DA he expressed personal doubts about capital punishment.

A group of families of murder victims whose cases remain unsolved are the main force behind the bill, but they have the support of the Colorado Catholic Conference and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Colorado District Attorneys Council is fighting the bill, along with other victims' groups.

Debra Callihan, whose cousin Sid Wells was killed in 1983, said the families of murder victims have been told for too long that there are not enough resources to solve these old cases. She said they're willing to give up what she called the "ultimate retribution" for a chance to find their loved one's killer.

"If we can come to that conclusion, we feel like it should be a no-brainer for someone who hasn't lost someone," said Callihan. She's the wife of former Lt. Gov. Mike Callihan and has been lobbying lawmakers on the bill as a member of Families of Homicide Victims & Missing Persons.

But Ted Tow, executive director of the DA's Council, said another bill requiring that anyone arrested for a felony submit a DNA sample would solve more cold cases than abolishing the death penalty because it would expand the state's criminal database. Tow said cold cases are solved through advances in technology and finding people willing to talk.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, bills to abolish the death penalty have stalled in Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Texas this year

New Mexico this year became the second state to abolish the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states could reinstate it in 1976.