Colorado Catholic Conference supports bill to repeal death penalty

Death penalty Credit California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Wikipedia CC 20 CNA California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

As a measure to repeal Colorado's death penalty passed a Senate committee this week, the Colorado Catholic Conference has expressed support for the bill.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 3-2 along party lines March 6. Before the bill is sent to the Senate for a full debate, the Colorado Catholic Conference encouraged the people to call or email their elected officials.

"We have always been staunch supporters of repealing the death penalty here in Colorado, and all of the bishops have spoken very publicly about the need to repeal and abolish the death penalty," Jenny Kraska, executive director for the Colorado Catholic Conference, told CNA.

The bill's sponsors are Sen. Angela Williams, Sen. Julie Gonzales, Rep. Jeni Arndt, and Rep. Adrienne Benavidez.

According to 9 News, Williams said the death penalty is inefficient and that the fact that each of the three people on death row in the state are African American is evidence of racial inequalities.

"It's a barbaric practice. It's time to remove it from the books in Colorado," she said.

CPR reported that testimonies were also given in opposition to the repeal. Rep. Tom Sullivan had pushed for the execution of James Holmes after the 2012 Aurora Theater Shooting left dead the politician's son, along with 12 other people.

"We have a mechanism if those people don't want to be a part of our society, we should have the ability to take those people out of our society," he said.

The last execution carried out in the state was in 1997.

The inmates now on death row are Nathan Dunlap, who murdered four people at a kids' restaurant, and Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, who both had been involved with the death of a young couple.

In 2013, then-governor John Hickenlooper temporarily suspended the death penalty of Dunlap. Before the execution was suspended, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver was featured in a Denver Post guest column, where he expressed the importance of human dignity.

"My faith tells me that Dunlap's crimes were sinful because murder ignores the human dignity which comes from being created in God's image. But I believe that justice must also respect human dignity. My faith holds out hope for the possibility that some good can come from every single human life."

Kraska said mercy, redemption, and healing should be made available to both victims and criminals. She said prisoners should not only have the chance to change and seek repentance, but the families of victims should be able to have interactions of forgiveness with the perpetrator. If people are put to death, these opportunities are lost, she said.

"For the Catholic Church, obviously, it's about a consistent ethic of life, and we believe that all life has intrinsic value and whether that is life in the womb, life at the end of life, or life of somebody who has committed an atrocious crime," she told CNA.

"We don't think it is the right of the state or anyone to kill somebody. Perpetuating violence with violence is never the answer," she added.

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