Colorado is no longer a death penalty state. On February 26, 2020, the Colorado Legislature voted 38-27 to pass SB20.100. This repeals capital punishment for offenses charged on or after July 1, 2020. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law on March 23, 2020.
Below our Colorado criminal defense lawyers explain:
- 1. Does Colorado have the death penalty?
- 2. What crimes were punishable by death in Colorado?
- 3. Did all class 1 felony convicts get sentenced to death?
- 4. What will happen to current death row inmates?
1. Does Colorado have the death penalty?
No, not for crimes charged on or after July 1, 2020. Colorado Senate Bill 20-100 repealed capital punishment.
Colorado did have the death penalty prior to this senate bill. The most recent method was by lethal injection.
Statistically, the death penalty has not been applied to all individuals equally. Poor and minority individuals had a higher chance of being sentenced to death.
2. What crimes were punishable by death in Colorado?
Capital offense charges in Colorado were limited to class 1 felonies. These included:
- Murder in the first degree – CRS 18-3-102
- First-degree murder of a peace officer or fireman – CRS 18-3-107(1)
- First Degree Kidnapping – CRS 18-3-301(1)
- Child abuse causing death of a child under 12 – CRS 18-6-401(7)(c)
- Assault during escape – CRS 18-8-206(1)(a)
- Treason – CRS 18-11-101
Starting July 1, 2020, the only possible sentence for these crimes is life in prison. (There is no mandatory parole for class 1 felonies.)
3. Did all class 1 felony convicts get sentenced to death?
No. Under CRS 18-1.3-1201, courts could impose death or life in prison.
During sentencing hearings, the court heard evidence for and against the death penalty. “Aggravating evidence” weighed in favor of the death penalty. “Mitigating evidence” weighed in favor of life in prison.
10 examples of aggravating factors
- Prior convictions of a class 1 or 2 felony crime of violence
- Defendant was under sentence of imprisonment for a class 1, 2, or 3 felony
- Victim was a peace officer or firefighter
- Victim was a judge or federal enforcement agent
- Victim was pregnant
- Victim was a child under the age of 12
- Defendant killed a person they kidnapped or held hostage
- Use of an explosive or chemical weapon
- Defendant was trying to avoid arrest or prosecution
- Financial gain was a motivation
10 examples of mitigating factors
- Mental incompetence
- Being under unusual or substantial duress
- Participation in the crime was relatively minor
- Lack of criminal history
- Cooperation with law enforcement
- Influence of drugs or alcohol
- Lack of threat to society
- Good faith belief that there was a moral justification
- Defendant was a model prisoner
A jury had to unanimously agree in order to impose death. If the defendant waived the right to a jury trial, the judge could decide the sentence.
People sentenced to death could appeal. This process often took years. And many people remained on death row for more than a decade.
4. What will happen to current death row inmates?
The three people who were on death row had their sentences commuted to life in prison. They live at the Colorado State Penitentiary near Cañon City.
Call us for help…
Arrested in Colorado? Contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys. We may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Call us or fill out the form on this page. Consultations are free.
In California? Read our article about capital punishment in California.
In Nevada? Read our article on capital punishment in Nevada.