Colorado repeals the death penalty, commutes death row sentences

Since 1976, the state of Colorado has executed just one inmate.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis
Colorado Governor Jared Polis
(Jason Connolly / Getty Images)
Last Updated:
March 24, 2020 - 7:52am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed a bill repealing the death penalty in his state and commuted the sentences of the three prisoners on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The first-term Democratic governor signaled his support for the repeal bill as it was debated in the state legislature in February. But until Monday, it was unclear what would happen to the inmates already on death row.

“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender. That is not why I am commuting these sentences," Polis said. "Rather, the commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the state of Colorado.” 

The sentences were commuted via executive orders.

The District Attorney of Arapahoe County, George Brauchler, voiced his displeasure with the governor's actions. 

“Governor Polis wiped away three separate unanimous jury verdicts for some of the worst murderers in our state’s history,” said Brauchler. He also said that Polis’s move would likely be largely ignored by the media due to the widespread coverage and urgency of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to commute the sentences of the three guilty men was made following a “thorough outreach process to the victims and their families,” according to a statement by the governor.

Polis called the commutations a “recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been administered equitably in the State of Colorado.”

Since 1976, the state of Colorado has executed just one inmate.

The law will go into practice on July 1, 2020.