Gov. John Hickenlooper sent shockwaves throughout Colorado with his announcement on Wednesday. By granting Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve, he singlehandedly put the concept of capital punishment into the center of conversations throughout Colorado.
He also put the idea of decision making into the community consciousness. For example, as the governor, was he called upon to make a different kind of decision? While it was perfectly legal for Hickenlooper to make the decision he made, did the community expect him to take a more significant stand on the issue?
Obviously, those who felt Nathan Dunlap deserved to die felt the governor should have made a different decision. But even those who are against capital punishment know in their hearts that if the next governor of this state is pro-death penalty, then all Hickenlooper did was delay the execution.
Is the compromise Hickenlooper struck, by essentially making the decision if Nathan Dunlap should live or die some other governor’s problem, fair to the community?
Like any significant cultural issue, it’s not as black and white as it may seem. And the prevalence of that gray area may actually help to rationalize Hickenlooper’s decision.
There are among us folks who are distinctly one side of the fence or the other on the question of the death penalty. But there are also people who see a tremendous amount of room to argue for both sides, especially depending on each particular situation.
Those in our community that do not see the decision to use the death penalty as black or white quite possibly see a great deal of value in how the governor handled this issue. In his shoes, they may also have sought the very same compromise. While not as boisterous, these people can see the need for more time to examine the issue and to allow more time for certain parts of the argument to evolve.
Fortunately, nearly all of us will never be in a position to weigh the decision to allow a person to live or die. Some people will serve on a jury and be put in that position as their civic duty. But some run for office, knowing full well that they may be called to be in that position as part of their job.
But, there in lies the rub with how the governor decided to handle this issue on Wednesday. Even though there is a part of the community that may have sought the same strategy he employed, the fact of the matter is that Hickenlooper chose to run for the job he currently holds, with full knowledge that he may be called upon to make a life or death decision on behalf of the state of Colorado.
To run for a position and then essentially put a major decision in someone else’s lap, even though it is part of the job that he was elected to do, could cause some to think that you were not up to doing the job you voluntarily ran for.
Therein lies the conflict in the decision that Hickenlooper made.
Like the concept of capital punishment itself, there is a wide variety of ways to look at it. The multitude of facets to the issue and the 2014 election should keep this in the spotlight for the foreseeable future. And like any decision, we may just need some time to pass to be able to judge it accurately.
It appears at this point, time is something that all of us, including Nathan Dunlap, will have plenty of in the next sixteen months.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.