Colorado has abolished its seldom-used death penalty, joining 21 other states that have now repealed the practice.
Gov. Jared Polis signed the repeal into law Monday, the New York Times reports.
He commuted the sentences of three men on death row — Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens and Nathan Dunlap — to life in prison without the possibility of parole, saying “The commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty.”
Colorado had executed one person since reinstating the death penalty in the mid-1970s: Gary Davis, who had been convicted of the rape and murder of Virginia May, was given a lethal injection in 1997.
The measure picked up some crossfire. George Brauchler, a Colorado district attorney, said, that while “there are a few in Colorado today who will cheer the sparing of the lives of these coldblooded murderers,” the state would not benefit. He said: “We will save no money. We are not safer. We are not a better people. And the only lives spared are those who commit the ultimate acts of evil against us.”
But the repeal was welcomed by Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a national advocacy group. “Although Republicans are not in the majority in the Colorado Legislature, they were among the prime sponsors of the bill and their support made it possible to repeal the death penalty,” said Hannah Cox, National Manager of the group in a statement sent to The Crime Report.
“They felt capital punishment did not align with their conservative principles of valuing limited government, fiscal conservatism, and life.”