In Colorado, Blacks Make Up 4 Percent Of The Population And 100 Percent Of Death Row

Written by Nicole Flatow

In March, Colorado came close to becoming the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, but the bill failed after Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) voiced opposition and suggested a possible veto. A few months later, Colorado’s death penalty is still firmly in place, and the state is poised to complete what would be only the second execution in 45 years (the last was in 1997). Few dispute that Nathan Dunlap committed a horrific crime and murdered several people at a Chuck E. Cheese. But judges, university professors, and other prominent state leaders are urging Gov. Hickenlooper to commute Dunlap’s sentence, both because crucial errors that defined his trial may have led him to get a harsher sentence than others, and because killing anyone under the perverted state system would be a miscarriage of justice. According to letters filed with Hickenlooper’s office:

  • All three people on death row are black men. In a state that is only 4.3% African American, Colorado’s death row is 100% African American.
  • All three men on death are from the same one county, out of Colorado’s 64.
  • All three men committed their crime when they were under the age of 21.
  • Two law professors who studied Colorado’s application of the death penalty concluded it was unconstitutional, after finding that prosecutors pursue the death penalty in less than one percent of the cases where it is an option, and that the state failed to set “clear statutory standards for distinguishing between the few who are executed and the many who commit murder.”

“It appears that race, geography and youth largely determines who gets the death penalty in Colorado,” wrote a group of NAACP leaders in a letter urging Gov. Hickenlooper to grant clemency. They note that not a single black juror served on the panel that sentenced Dunlap to death.

In addition to the injustices that define the Colorado system, a group of former Colorado judges also point out that Dunlap’s bipolar disorder and psychotic tendencies were not even mentioned at trial. In fact, according to their letter, Dunlap’s lawyer told the jury that there was no explanation for his violence.

The judges add that “no clear evidence exists that the death penalty deters violent crime. What it does in our current system, as in this case, is to drain our judicial system of millions of dollars as mandatory appeals drag on for decades.” Studies have shown that the death penalty does not lower the homicide rate. In fact, the murder rate is lower in states without the death penalty. Hickenlooper says he continues to wrestle with the death penalty, and whether to commute Dunlap’s sentence.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.



Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Judy Moran
Judy M4 years ago

Kevin B., You're right on! And, you know your stuff... I could not have said it better. Now, if the rest of the world would wake up to what's really going on and start making better decisions, it would be a much nicer place to live.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago


Lynda Harrison
Lynda Harrison4 years ago

There was a time when I was fully supportive of imposing the ultimate penalty for those who commit the most horrendous of crimes. However, my thoughts completely changed after seeing a program on TV documenting the last day of a death row prisoner who consistently stated his innocence. The relevant authority did, in fact, execute this individual who was, too late, exonerated of the crime because it was proved he was over 100 miles away from the scene of the crime. So much, Molly M., for your statement that innocent people are never executed! Perhaps the next time you seek to make such categorical statements, you would make sure of your facts first!

Kevin Brown
Kevin B4 years ago

Molly M. said "I actually don't have anything against the death penalty. It's better to have justice done rather than suck money out from where it could do good. If people don't get the death penalty then they normally get life imprisonment. A large money drain. Sure people are sometimes found innocent, but that is so rare that it's almost unheard of."

Acutally Molly, since we currently imprison some 2.3 million in this country, most for non-violent offenses like drug possession, the real problem and the real "drain" on our resources is that, not the few hundred people who would remain in prison for life if we did away with the death penalty.

Additionally, with over 180 people on death row who have been exonerated by DNA evidence in recent years it is hardly "so rare that it is almost unheard of." Quite the contray, it is very common.

janice b.
jan b4 years ago

Regardless if you believe some deserve the death penalty ....the reality is that it doesn't happen for years and many costly--time-consuming appeals. It cost taxpayers more money and victims families more stress than if it were just a life sentence with no possible parole.

Molly M.
Molly M4 years ago

I actually don't have anything against the death penalty. It's better to have justice done rather than suck money out from where it could do good. If people don't get the death penalty then they normally get life imprisonment. A large money drain. Sure people are sometimes found innocent, but that is so rare that it's almost unheard of. That Dunlap guy killed those people and they know it. How is death too harsh a punishment for a murder, that even happened in a public place like Chuck E. Cheese. It's also reverse racism to complain the the people shouldn't get death just because all are black. If there's no doubt they did it then kill them and have justice be served.

Kevin Brown
Kevin B4 years ago

john h. you obviously do not know what the hell you are talking about. Oh and please it is "execution" not "exacution."

Whites make up nearly 80% of the U.S. population and commit 54% of the nation’s crime, but only make up 33% of the prison population. 44% of all of the people executed in this country are minorities, but minorities ARE NOT committing 44% of the murders in this country, they are however the people that we are executing.

If we saved the death penalty for the "worst of the worst" of criminals (mass murderers, serial killers, etc.) then perhaps an argument could be made on the basis of revenge (which is, quite frankly, the only legitimate argument for the death penalty). But we don't, we freakishly execute the minorities and the poor with no real relationship to the nature of their crime.

I suggest you study the facts of the issue and get back to us when you are better informed and educated.

john hall
john h4 years ago

Kevin B. Who committe's the majority of the crime in the US minoritie's and the poor people want to bitch and gripe about putting non violent people in jail , you want to boo hoo about exacuting people . If you can't do the time don't do the crime no matter how small or horrendous the crime . Over the last several yrs people have been exonerated because of DNA but since DNA has come into play there's absolutly no reason not to have exacution's on the worst monster's found guilty of horrendous crime's . Here's the big problem people who are against the death penalty don't have the guts to stomach signing a person's death sentence and this crap about life in prison is just that crap.

Lynn Squance
Lynn S4 years ago

The death penalty has to go. There is too high a probability that there will be judicial errors and other travesties. As Kevin B mentioned, 130 prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence that otherwise would have been dead.

I posted a C2NN story about 'America's 10 Worst Prisons" and the #1 spot goes to a Colorado prison. This is no club Fed. If you read the article which comes from Mother Jones, the conditions in these prisons is not acceptable.