Two competing bills on the future of the death penalty in Colorado may be taken up by the state Legislature this session. State Representative Claire Levy, a Democrat from Boulder County, wants to make the maximum sentence in Colorado life in prison without parole. Levy says while there are objections to the death penalty on moral grounds, the lengthy appeals process - including repeated hearings and media coverage - makes it difficult for the victims' families to get any real closure.
"With a life sentence, they serve out their sentence, they die in prison, they're forgotten by the public, so they don't get the notoriety."
Meanwhile, State Representative Rhonda Fields, also a Democrat, from Aurora, is expected to introduce a competing bill, to put the issue on the 2014 ballot for voters to decide. Levy says that, while the referendum process is important, she feels lawmakers need to take the lead on this issue.
Three men are on death row in Colorado, and supporters of the death penalty say it's not an adequate social response to certain crimes. But Claire Levy says research shows Colorado's death penalty is applied arbitrarily.
"The death penalty is a punishment that really has outlived its time. It is a relic of a bygone era."
Currently, 33 states allow executions, but according to the Death Penalty Information Center, legislatures in as many as nine states may consider bills this year to do away with death sentences.
More information is at DeathPenaltyInfo.org.