Colorado Governor Indefinitely Stays Execution Over Concerns About Flawed System

On May 22, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado granted an indefinite stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap, who was facing execution in August. In his Executive Order, the governor expressed concerns about the state’s death penalty system, calling it flawed and inequitable. He also noted the national trend away from capital punishment, with five states recently voting to repeal the death penalty and other states rarely using it. Hickenlooper stated, “If the State of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado’s system for capital punishment is not flawless.” The governor underscored that his decision to grant a reprieve in this case was because of larger objections to the death penalty, and he was not granting clemency to Dunlap. He concluded, “It is a legitimate question whether we as a state should be taking lives.”

(K. Augé and L. Bartels, "Nathan Dunlap granted "temporary reprieve" by governor," Denver Post, May 22, 2013).  Read the Executive Order.  See New Voices and Clemency. Colorado has 3 people on death row. The last execution in the state was in 1997.

Dunlap's attorneys issued a statement following the governor's order, saying, “We agree with Governor Hickenlooper’s well-reasoned decision to grant Nathan Dunlap a reprieve and indefinitely stay his execution. There has been widespread and diverse support from hundreds of people and organizations in Colorado who support permanently commuting Nathan Dunlap’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole."

Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon also recently put a hold on executions in his state.