Watch CBS News

Bill targeting repeat violent offenders fails in committee at Colorado Capitol 7-4

Colorado lawmakers vote against bill designed to keep some violent suspects behind bars until trial
Colorado lawmakers vote against bill designed to keep some violent suspects behind bars until trial 03:45

For the second time in as many years, a bill aimed at keeping violent offenders behind bars failed in committee on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by State Reps. Gabe Evans and Shannon Bird -- a Republican and Democrat, respectively -- would have required judges to set monetary bonds for defendants charged with violent crimes if they've been convicted of another violent crime, or charged with two or more violent crimes within the previous two years unless a district attorney agreed to a non-monetary personal recognizance -- or PR -- bond.

PR bonds simply require defendants to give their word they'll return for their next court appearance.

Bill supporters, including Alex Cabriales, say too often those individuals go on to commit even worse crimes: "How many people are going to have to die for you guys to decide to do something?"

Alex Cabriales CBS

Cabriales told the State House Judiciary Committee that his sister's killer had been released on a PR bond for six gun-related crimes before he killed her over a fender bender in Denver.

"He then jumped out of the car with a loaded AR-15 rifle and blew my sister's head off. He shot 15 to 20 rounds," he said. "My sister had a 6-year-old son. How many kids are going to have to suffer for you to put your differences aside?"

Marius Suffian also testified in favor of the bill, telling lawmakers he still lives in fear of the man who brutally beat him - a man with a long criminal history who is now out on bond: "Even today, I feel nervous knowing Derek is out there and he can attack me again."

CBS New Colorado reporter Gabriela Vidal interviews Marius Suffian and his brother Jake Suffian on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. CBS

Suffian and Cabriales pleaded with lawmakers to pass the bill while opponents argued it would do nothing to help public safety. Under the measure, prosecutors could prevent a judge from issuing a PR bond, but judges would still have discretion on how high the monetary bond would be.

"What we're saying is that we're going to subject the discretion of a judge to the advocacy aims of the district attorney," said former House Speaker Terrance Carroll, who served in law enforcement for 10 years.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann also opposed the bill, saying other states are moving away from monetary bonds altogether because it's unfair.

Maureen Cain with the Colorado Defense Bar helped craft the current bond statutes that give judges discretion over bond amounts based on risk assessment tools. Requiring monetary bond only, Cain says, simply ensures poor people -- not dangerous people -- remain behind bars.

"They're presuming that PR bond caused the violation of the law. The person could have posted a $1,000 bond and still possessed the gun," Cain said.

Opponents warned the bill would lead to more crime by keeping defendants in jail while they await trial, causing them to lose jobs and housing.

"We Lead with our humanity" sign at Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, August 3, 2023. Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Cabrialas warned that, without change, more people would die at the hands of violent repeat criminals: "This bill is about human lives. It's not about social economic inequity. PR bonds kill people. My sister was one of them."

The measure, which had bi-partisan sponsors in both chambers, failed by a vote of 7-4. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.