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New Bill Would Limit Death Penalty Reprieves From Governor

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DENVER (CBS4) – A measure at the state Capitol has been designed to force Gov. John Hickenlooper to decide the fate of death row inmate Nathan Dunlap.

Hickenlooper has granted Dunlap a reprieve, essentially leaving the decision to next governor. Dunlap killed four people inside a Chuck E. Cheese in Aurora in 1993.

Nathan Dunlap (credit: Colorado Governor's Office)

Nathan Dunlap (credit: Colorado Governor’s Office)

The bill shows how angry people still are over what Hickenlooper did in the case. The bill will not make it out of this legislative session, but its sponsor says it brings to light the fact Dunlap’s victims and their families are still waiting for closure after 20 years.

Nathan Dunlap in court on May 1 (credit: Denver Post)

Nathan Dunlap in court on May 1 (credit: Denver Post)

Bobby Stephens was the sole survivor of the mass shooting.

“I really felt let down by our judicial system,” Stephens said.”I felt let down by our leaders and I felt let down by (Hickenlooper).”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, and is aimed to force the governor’s hand by limiting reprieves like the one in Dunlap’s case.

“And this didn’t take any of his power away, this just put some parameters around, but it has to have a cause, and that it has to be done in 90 days,” Szabo

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is an outspoken advocate of the death penalty and has a capital punishment case on his hands right now.

“My guess is the drafters of this constitution never intended someone to use it in the manner in which its been used, and that’s to grant sort of a blanket timeout for a law that the governor feels uncomfortable with,” Brauchler said.

Szabo says it comes down to making executive decisions, no matter how tough they are, for victims like Stephens.

“We deserve some type of closure and he should give us at least that,” Stephens said.

CBS4 reached out to Hickenlooper’s office which pointed out the state constitution does not give lawmakers the ability to change executive powers. The ability to grant a reprieve is written in the state constitution.

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