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Death Penalty Bill Draws Criticism From Shooting Victims & District Attorneys

DENVER (CBS4) - The survivor of what's known as the Chuck 'E' Cheese massacre pleaded with lawmakers not to do away with the death penalty. Bobby Stephens' testimony came during debate on a bill to repeal the death penalty.

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Bobby Stephens (credit: CBS)

The man responsible for killing four people and injuring Stephens 25 years ago is one of three men on Colorado's death row. Yet, Stephens says lawmakers didn't have the decency to talk to any of the victims before introducing the bill.

"Nobody has reached out to victims in these cases. I'm speaking out for those who've had to suffer 25 years of back and forth politics."

Stephens and other opponents say the bill should be put before voters.

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(credit: CBS)

Despite just a day's notice, people on both sides of the issue packed a hearing room, including six district attorneys -- two supporting the bill, four opposed.

Michael Rourk, the Weld County DA who prosecuted Christopher Watts, says the death penalty spares victims long trials.

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(credit: CBS)

"Christopher Watts plead guilty to three life sentences plus 84 years. Without the death penalty on the books in the state of Colorado, he would not have done that," Rourk said.

George Brauchler, prosecutor of the Aurora theater shooter, told lawmakers all murders are not the same.

"All you will have done is to cheapen extraordinarily evil crimes that take place here. You will have announced to the person who shoots another gang member on the street corner of Aurora that we view your murder the same as we view a murderer of five," Brauchler said.

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Doug Wilson (credit: CBS)

But Doug Wilson, a capitol defense attorney, calls the death penalty arbitrary and archaic.

"It seems to be totally acceptable to threaten ones life in order to force a guilty plea. I personally find that to be ethically problematic."

Maisha Fields, who's brother, Javad, was murdered by two of the men on death row, says rushing the bill through is unethical.

"The only thing that should be repealed are elected officials who don't give the time and voice to victims."

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

Sen. Rhonda Fields, Javad's mother, also was not notified in advance of the bill being introduced despite it being introduced by her democratic colleagues.

While the bill is not retroactive, Gov. Jared Polis has said publicly that if it passes, he will commute the sentences of the the three men on Colorado's death row.

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