COLORADO (USA): HOUSE VOTES TO END DEATH PENALTY
April 15, 2009: The Colorado House gave tentative approval today to House Bill 1274, a plan to eliminate the death penalty and use the money to focus on cold cases after victims' relatives asked for help finding closure.
The legislation would shift funds currently used to prosecute death-penalty cases to deal with the growing backlog of more than 1,400 unsolved homicides that have stymied local investigators since 1970.
Colorado has executed one person in four decades and has two more murderers on death row.
House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, a Democrat, said the state should be spending money solving those cases instead of defending the only two inmates currently on death row and a half-dozen other cases that are pending. Weissmann said the last death penalty case tried in Colorado - against Jose Luis Rubi-Nava, who was charged with dragging his girlfriend to death behind a truck - cost $1.4 million to prosecute.
Rubi-Nava, 38, was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty. Weissmann said it costs only about $70,000 to try a non-capital case.
Rep. Jim Kerr, a Republican, said suspects would have little incentive to enter into plea bargains without the threat of capital punishment.
The House approved the measure on a standing vote. Another vote is needed before the Senate gets the bill. (Source: Associated Press, 15/04/2009)