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Colorado Death Row Inmate Given Right To Exercise

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Nathan Dunlap (credit: CBS)

Nathan Dunlap (credit: CBS)

STERLING, Colo. (AP) – Convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap has been transferred to the Sterling Correctional Facility where he will have the opportunity to exercise five days a week as part of an agreement between prison officials and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU says depriving Dunlap of fresh air, sunshine and outdoor exercise for 15 years since his conviction is cruel and unusual punishment.

Dunlap was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing three teenagers and a mother of two at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993.

Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti says Dunlap has already been transferred and she had no information on the corrections department’s opposition to the move.

ACLU spokeswoman Rosemary Harris Lytle says as a matter of policy, the Colorado Department of Corrections automatically assigns death-sentenced prisoners to administrative segregation, the highest-security classification that includes solitary confinement.

Until now, the department also required that death-sentenced prisoners be assigned to the Colorado State Penitentiary, where prisoners are isolated, locked down 23 hours a day.

At the penitentiary, the only opportunity for out-of-cell recreation is one hour in a separate concrete-walled cell that contains a pull-up bar.

Harris Lytle says the policy also should apply to the other 734 prisoners at the aging prison, but they weren’t included in the original lawsuit filed by Dunlap. Those prisoners have the option of earning their way to general population facilities where prisoners can go outdoors, but it doesn’t apply to death row inmates.

The department also chose to voluntarily transfer the two other Colorado death row inmates to the Sterling Correctional Facility.

Dunlap was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder, robbery, theft and burglary in 1996.

Killed in the rampage were Margaret Kohlberg, 50; Ben Grant, 17; Colleen O’Conner, 17; and Sylvia Crowell, 19. Bobby Stephens survived and later identified Dunlap as the murderer.

Colorado has executed one person in the past 42 years, Gary Lee Davis, who was put to death in 1997 for his conviction in a 1986 slaying.

Dunlap is one of three men who remain on Colorado’s death row.

Robert Ray is sentenced to die for the 2005 slaying of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe. A jury convicted Ray in 2009 of ordering the slaying of Marshall-Fields in order to stop him from testifying in another murder case. Sir Mario Owens was convicted of being the triggerman in the case and also got the death penalty.

By Steven K. Paulson, Associated Press

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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