Mario Nicolais, Author at Colorado Politics
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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisFebruary 1, 20175min1340

A perennially contentious proposal, this year’s religious freedom restoration bill, HB 17-1013, died a faster, quieter death than in years past. Sent to the state house committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs — a Democratic “kill committee” — in January, the bill’s fate was a foregone conclusion. While the political tumult over the bill declined dramatically, it nonetheless remains a fascinating case study in divergent conservative viewpoints on the topic.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisJanuary 27, 20176min1410

In 164 pages, the U.S. Department of Justice eviscerated the Chicago Police Department. After a year-long investigation, the DOJ found the CPD “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force.” The detailed report details a systematic failure, not only in the CPD, but the entire city government for its failure to oversee and provide adequate resources to avoid such an outcome. While the rest of the country may look at the DOJ report and snicker at Chicago, it should serve as a warning to state and local governments across the country. It would be easy to get lost in the dramatic headline and believe that Chicago is an unfortunate, but unique circumstance. But in an era when police conduct across the country has come under ever-increasing scrutiny, Chicago could foreshadow future revelations across the country. Every state and municipality should take this chance to review and revise its police training programs and conduct standards.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisJanuary 20, 20177min1290

Dylann Roof is set to die. A federal jury recently sentenced the unapologetic mass-murderer to the death penalty. More than any other individual, his case brings the contrast between political positions on capital punishment to a head. Roof’s sentence draws a clear distinction between pure death penalty opponents and anyone who struggles with the issue. I find myself in the latter camp; I am not an anti-death penalty purist. My concerns about use of the death penalty span a broad range of arguments. Both empirical data and anecdotal stories demonstrate that the death penalty has been imposed against innocent people. Statistical analysis suggests that the death penalty is not effective as a deterrent; it is only punitive in nature. And then there is the moral question. I am a Christian and believe in the miracle of life. Ending the life of another human being will always conflict with that belief.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisJanuary 11, 20176min1150

Shocking video showing four black youths torturing a disabled, white captive spread across the internet and media outlets recently. Almost immediately, some politicians and members of the media began calling for hate crime charges. No policy conflicts me as much as hate crimes. The rationales for adopting hate crime legislation are powerful and moving. Yet, I’ve always struggled with the concept of the motivation for an action being a crime itself in addition to the actual, underlying criminal act. For example, there is no question heinous crimes occurred in Chicago. Holding a person bound and gagged for days, making threats of abuse, and using a knife to cut into the boy’s scalp all constitute serious felonies. The list of charges should be long with corresponding prison sentences.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisJanuary 4, 20176min1300

For the Colorado Legislature, the new year means new bills and new issues to tackle under the gold dome. In one of the legislative chambers, the state Senate, this new season in state politics will also mean plenty of new faces as well. Even before the session convenes on Jan. 11, the judiciary committees will begin their work. Joint judiciary meetings will be held on Jan. 3 and 4. Members will discuss upcoming bills and issues to be addressed. It is effectively a head start on a session that always seems both too long and too short. Too long for those involved in the daily rough and tumble; too short to address many of the state’s pressing issues.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisDecember 26, 20166min1340

The political drama unfolding in North Carolina recently trumped even the transition of the new president-elect for many political junkies. An acrimonious gubernatorial election between incumbent Republican Patrick McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper led to a nearly month-long standoff as Cooper won with a razor-thin margin. Now that acrimony has spilled into sweeping new laws passed by the outgoing Legislature before Cooper takes office. The lion’s share of media attention has been focused on the power stripped from the governor’s office, and the Democratic governor-elect, by the Republican Legislature and signed by the outgoing McCrory.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisDecember 19, 20166min1340

Every law school student loves to argue. Most see shadows of Gregory Peck or Spencer Tracy in their mirrors. And, in my law school experience, nothing brought about an argument as fast and as fierce as the death penalty. Stakes cannot be greater or an outcome more final. I even remember former Illinois Gov. George Ryan speaking at our school after he reignited the political debate over the death penalty by declaring a moratorium in 2000. A decade after leaving law school, I find myself drawn to the subject again for two reasons. First, I’m a die-hard fan of the cult television series "Rectify," which just aired its series finale.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisDecember 9, 20165min1550

Years ago I defended a pro bono client against battery and disorderly conduct charges. He worked a blue-collar construction job, tried hard to take care of his children, and had a lengthy, but distant criminal record. When we went in for his arraignment, the prosecutor offered to drop the battery charge in exchange for a guilty plea to disorderly conduct. He would spend a few days in jail and pay a small fine. My client agonized over that decision.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisNovember 30, 20165min1550

Earlier this year, I compared the Republican Supreme Court challenge to playing poker. With President Obama nominating Merrick Garland for the vacant seat left after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the GOP-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings, much less a vote. Republicans were betting on a winning back the Oval Office and maintaining control of the Senate. Even the day before Election Day, that strategy seemed to be the longest of odds. With polls showing Hillary Clinton with commanding leads — including in the Electoral College — and Democrats poised to pick up enough Senate seats to gain either a 50-50 split or even an outright majority, Republicans seemed to be drawing dead. Democrats had a strong made hand; let’s call it a straight flush. In contrast, Republicans needed to pull not just one miracle draw card, but two.


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Mario NicolaisMario NicolaisNovember 23, 20166min1050

If you binge watched the Netflix series “Making a Murderer” — hopefully after reading my column! — then you must be familiar with the host of tragedies inundating the show. The recent saga of Brendan Dassey, one the individuals at the center of the story, demonstrates how these tragedies can drag on for years and even decades in the criminal justice system. The primary tragedy in “Making a Murderer” was the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. From that starting point, the docu-series reviewed and analyzed historical evidence, interviews, press accounts and court proceedings, supplemented by follow up interviews by the filmmakers about the murder and the two men convicted of it — Steven Avery and Dassey. Of course, one of the main substories emphasizes that Dassey wasn’t actually a grown man at the time. And that is where recent court proceedings captured headlines again.