Bill To Abolish Death Penalty Passes House Committee

Money Saved Would Be Used On Cold Case Investigations

A House committee approved a plan late Monday to get rid of the death penalty and use the money to focus on cold cases.

The House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 1274 after hours of emotional testimony from supporters.

The money saved would be transferred to solving the state's 1,400 unsolved cold cases. Part of the money saved would be used to create a cold-case team at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Only two men are on Colorado's death row currently. They are Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people people at an Aurora Chuck E Cheese in 1996, and Sir Mario Owens, who killed a witness and the fiancé of the witness in a pending murder case.

Javad Marshall Fields and Vivian Wolfe were shot to death while driving in Aurora.

Fields' mother, Vivian Wolfe, is among those who showed up to testify before legislators Monday.

"(The death penalty) gives me confidence in the justice system. If any case warrants the death penalty, it was this case," said Wolfe.

House majority leader Paul Weissman is sponsoring the bill to eliminate the death penalty. He said the state spends more than $4 million a year on the death penalty and by abolishing it, Colorado could save $2 million and local authorities could save more than $2.5 million.

The legislation would shift funds currently used to prosecute death-penalty cases to deal with the growing backlog of more than 1,400 unsolved homicides that have stymied local investigators since 1970.

Death penalty cases are expensive because the court process is complicated and usually involves multiple appeals.

In 2007, a similar bill passed the House Judiciary Committee but lost on the House floor under intense pressure from district attorneys and the state attorney general.

In the past three decades, only one man has been executed in Colorado. That was Gary Davis, who was killed by lethal injection in 1997.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrisey said the bill is a bad idea and would not help solve old cases.

He said the funding for continued investigations comes from the federal government.

Do you think Colorado's death penalty should be abolished and the money used for cold case investigations? Post your comments below.

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