Colorado is no stranger to conversations about serious and controversial topics. We have been the epicenter of the debates over gun control, marijuana legalization and of course, fracking. But a small protest this week may be a sign that another debate may be headed our way.
A one man protest against the death penalty is attracting company and attention in Douglas County this week. But the protest is attracting attention because of the background of the main protestor.
Bob Autobee’s son, Eric Autobee, a Corrections Officer, was murdered by an inmate. Now that inmate is set to possibly face the death penalty over the crime in a trial this spring.
Bob Autobee believes that his son would not want to be responsible for another man’s death, so he is actively advocating that his son’s murderer not be given the death penalty.
Autobee has taken his protest to the sidewalk just outside the courthouse as potential jury members walk by, jury members who will eventually decide the fate of his son’s murderer.
This is by far one of the more intriguing death penalty protests that Colorado or really any state has seen. Death penalty opponents protest often, but rarely do they include the parents of the victim at the very trial of the murderer.
While it is unknown how Autobee’s protest will affect the trial, what is known is that his protest is gaining attention and popularity.
Could this effort, along with the focus brought to capital punishment last year with the temporary reprieve of Nathan Dunlap and this year’s likely trial of James Holmes, bring the discussion to the ballot box in November?
If not the ballot box, will a more public discussion at least be brought to bear in 2014?
To me, it seems inevitable; especially because all of the Republican gubernatorial candidates plan on hammering Governor Hickenlooper on his Nathan Dunlap call and that the intensity of the James Holmes trial will only grow throughout the year.
But beyond those major stories, the Autobee protest puts an extremely human face on the discussion. That face may push the debate over the top and into the public square.
Where it goes from there is unknown, but if you currently sit on the fence on this issue, be prepared for some serious efforts trying to push you on one side or the other. I think both proponents and opponents of the issue understand that a big fight is coming. And if the fight is coming, expect national reinforcements.
Colorado is accustomed to being a battleground state, and it looks like that designation is going to be very apt in 2104.
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– 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 usually 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 is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.