No one who knows John Hickenlooper is surprised he would not execute Nathan Dunlap. But, he will pay a political price.
Hickenlooper, as is his style, tried to finesse the issue. The reprieve approach, combined with his explanation, sounded confused. He apparently has “evolved” to being anti-death penalty. Why not just say it and provide clemency? Hickenlooper claimed during his gubernatorial campaign in 2010 to be willing to enforce the death penalty. So, this decision makes him vulnerable to the charge of failing to keep a promise – a trait politicians are often accused of, and Hickenlooper hates to be considered just another politician.
In the legislature this year, he derailed a straight up Democratic effort to abolish the death penalty by statute arguing there needs to be more dialogue about the issue. Hickenlooper recognized Colorado voters had approved it twice and national polls repeatedly show it has more than 60 percent support from the public.
Mr. Dunlap elicited little sympathy and the victims are visible and vocal. While the crime was 15 years ago, the recent violence in Aurora puts in relief that today’s politicians have a responsibility to deterrence, enforcement of legal orders and public justice.
John Hickenlooper has been a lucky politician and it is not likely this issue or his handling it will end a career, but, just as Republicans begin to get serious in opposing Hickenlooper’s re-election in 2014, he provides them new talking points.
Denver Post: Nathan Dunlap granted “temporary reprieve” by governor