Faith, Social Justice, and Civil Rights Organizations call on Colorado to End Unjust and Expensive Death Penalty
Coalition releases new data comparing added costs of death penalty trials with cuts to public priorities and services
DENVER – A broad and diverse coalition of faith organizations, civil rights activists, and community leaders gathered this morning at the state capitol to mark World End the Death Penalty Day and to call for an end to the death penalty in Colorado.
The event featured personal stories and reflections on the death penalty’s unjust and biased application and its damaging effect on communities, families, and individuals.
“When it comes to the death penalty, race matters,” said Lisa Calderon of the Colorado Latino Forum. “Race influences which cases are chosen for possible capital prosecution. Race affects the makeup of the juries that determine sentences. Racial bias and racial effect has been shown to not be an anomaly, but a constant presence time and time again.”
Coloradoans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado released new analysis demonstrating the burden that taxpayers take on to fund expensive death penalty trials, which cost on average about twenty times more than a trial for life without parole. From records procured through public information requests, the groups estimate that the average death penalty trial costs $3.5 million versus about $150,000 for a trial for life without parole.
As Nathan Woodliff-Stanley of the ACLU pointed out, the $3.5 million price tag would pay more than 70 teachers’ salaries for a year or buy 40,000 new textbooks. It could also be used to hire 77 new firefighters or 115 EMTS and paramedics to respond to emergencies and natural disasters.
“At a time when necessary services are being slashed and popular programs eliminated throughout the state, it’s irresponsible for prosecutors to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on death penalty trials, when life without parole would cost so much less,” said Woodliff-Stanley.
The event also featured Sister Ilaria Buonriposi of the Catholic Mobilization Network, a nationally-renowned advocate for eradicating the death penalty, who gave presentations on the subject earlier this week to all three Catholic Dioceses in Colorado.
“Catholic teaching on human life is rooted in the belief that all life is a gift from God that must be respected and defended from conception to natural death,” said Buonriposi.
Others speakers at the event included Robert Dewey, a man who spent 18 years in prison and faced death for a crime he did not commit, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, Reverend Dawn Riley Duval of Shorter Community AME Church, Lisa Cisneros of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Sharletta Evans, the mother of a murder victim who believes the death penalty wastes resources that could help family members heal and find true justice.
World End the Death Penalty Day was launched in 2003 by non-government organizations, bar associations, local governments, and unions around the world with a shared goal of eliminating all forms and uses of capital punishment.
For the new death penalty cost analysis from ACLU of Colorado and Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty:
For an infographic: