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Lawmakers Hear Bill To Ban Death Penalty: 'It Undermines Our Criminal Justice System'

DENVER (CBS4) - A bill has been introduced in the Colorado State Legislature that would ban the death penalty in the state. Those supporting the bill included legislators and members of the clergy including Rev. Patrick Demmer of the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance.

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(credit: CBS)

He said race is one factor why it should be banned.

"It is unbelievable, unconscionable that 100 percent of those on death row can be African Americans."

He pointed out that only six percent of the state's population is made of up African Americans. There are three people on death row.

Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields (credit: CBS)

Two are the killers of Javad Marshal Fields who was a witness in a murder case. He was shot to death along with his fiancée Vivian Wolfe.

It was that crime which spurred Javad's mother, Rhonda Fields, to become a state legislator first in the House and now as a state senator.

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CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Sen. Rhonda Fields. (credit: CBS)

"I believe I was propelled and called to this work on behalf of my son, "she told CBS4's Rick Sallinger.

Seeing a bill introduced to eliminate capital punishment in Colorado causes her pain.

"I believe it undermines our criminal justice system because district attorneys and prosecutors and jurors sat through weeks of trial and came back with that verdict."

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(credit: CBS)

But for now, the bill introduced would only impact those cases going forward after this July. Sen. Fields fears though the bill could be amended to include those currently facing death.

The third on death row is Nathan Dunlap convicted of killing four colleagues at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in 1993 after he was fired. The previous Gov. John Hickenlooper gave Dunlap a reprieve instead of agreeing to set a date for his execution.

The last time someone was put to death by the state was Gary Davis in 1997.

Nathan Dunlap
Nathan Dunlap (credit: Colorado Governor's Office)

Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver is among those behind the bill.

"This about taking an immoral cruel and unusual punishment off the books as a sentencing mechanism," she told those gathered in the Capitol foyer.

Such a measure has been introduced five times in a dozen years. This time it has a much better chance of passage with a democratic-controlled chambers and a new democratic governor, Jared Polis.

It's much to the dismay of still-grieving mother Rhonda Fields.

"It hurts because it connects me with my grief because I lost my son and his fiancée," she said, but adding she will not lobby against passage of the bill to ban capital punishment in Colorado.


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