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ACLU Report Highlights Stories of Victims’ Families who Oppose the Death Penalty

DENVER – An ACLU of Colorado report released today highlights 22 stories of families whose loved ones were murdered and why, in the face of such tragedy, they firmly oppose the death penalty. The death penalty is an expensive, ineffective and unjust process that harms victims’ families. Over the course of decades, victims’ families are forced to navigate a complicated legal process and relive the trauma of their loved one’s murder. “There was a trial for the killer’s accomplice that dragged on for eight years because of appeals,” said Gail Rice, whose brother, Denver Police Officer Bruce VanderJagt, was murdered while on duty. “It was enormously stressful… The death penalty means victims’ families are putting their lives on hold for years as they attend new hearings and appeals and relive the murder.”

Ending A Broken System: Colorado’s Expensive, Ineffective and Unjust Death Penalty is a report based on an eight-month ACLU campaign to end the death penalty in Colorado. In addition to the numerous stories of grief and the toll on innocent lives, the report contains detailed data that underscores why the death penalty is a flawed and broken system, including expense, racial bias, cruel and unusual application and it’s ineffectiveness in deterring crime.

The report finds that a death penalty sentence risks making irreversible mistakes. A wave of exonerations in the U.S. proves that the death penalty is often applied to the innocent. When carried out, executions using untested, increasingly unavailable drugs are often botched, torturing defendants and traumatizing corrections officers. Ending a Broken System illustrates that the death penalty is a bloated government program that consumes police time and wastes millions of dollars that could be invested in solving cold cases or expanding services for victims’ families. A death penalty sentence in Colorado depends more on the color of your skin, socio-economic status, quality of your attorney, and where you live than on the seriousness of your crime.

“The severity of the punishment we inflict has limits — imposed by both justice and our common human dignity,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director, Denise Maes. “Governments that respect these limits do not use premeditated executions of their own people as public policy. It is time for Colorado’s legislators to show the moral leadership necessary to end this unjust system.”

Several victims’ family members featured in the report will be available for interviews today, Monday, January 13, 2020. Please direct all media inquiries to ACLU of Colorado.

End Colorado’s Death Penalty is a campaign by ACLU of Colorado in collaboration with Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

RESOURCES:

Read the full report: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/DeathPenaltyWhitePaper_Finalv2.pdf

For more information on the End Colorado’s Death Penalty campaign go to: https://www.enddeathpenaltyco.org/

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The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.



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