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Who has she lined up? Guzman set to make case for Colorado death penalty repeal

Author: John Tomasic - February 15, 2017 - Updated: February 15, 2017

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Carrying the banner in preparation for Oct. 10, "World Day Against the Death Penalty" (Kurt Murrow via Flickr)
Carrying the banner in preparation for Oct. 10, “World Day Against the Death Penalty” (Kurt Murrow via Flickr)

State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman’s death penalty repeal bill, SB 95, will be heard Wednesday afternoon in the Senate Judiciary Committee. How will it fare? The Statesman considered the case in mid-January. Some points to again consider.

Guzman

Guzman, a well-liked, thoughtful Methodist pastor, is still perhaps the best choice on the Democratic side to bring this bill. The key phrase there is “on the Democratic side.” As of this morning, the bill still hasn’t attached the name of a single Republican sponsor. It needs that kind of support to make it out of the Republican-controlled Senate and to generally give it the bipartisan sheen that could bring over the Democrats in the building who take a conservative, meaning cautious or wary, stand on the issue.

Elections

We just wrapped a terrible horrible charged election season. Legislative elections are scheduled for 2018. That means there is a window. Nervous lawmakers might be convinced to take the leap on a controversial bill like this one.

Key support?

Guzman reportedly has been working for some time to woo supporters. So, who has she brought around?

Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2013 made headlines for granting a reprieve to death-row convict Nathan Dunlap. Hickenlooper was deeply conflicted over the decision and has since come out as an opponent of the death penalty as it is practiced today. He announced that he will  sign off on no new executions. He is also term limited and so more free to make big statements on controversial issues. The governor might be all the more influential as a champion of the Guzman repeal for the fact that, out of conviction, he has endured the political slings and arrows of a very public evolution on the matter.

Fields

What about former Aurora state Rep. and freshman Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields? Has Guzman won her over?

Fields has made repeat headlines for powerfully opposing efforts to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. Her opposition is tied to personal tragedy.

Two of the three inmates on death row in Colorado landed there for gunning down Fields’ son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiance, Vivian Wolfe. The two were killed on a street corner to prevent Marshall-Fields from testifying in a gangland murder case.

Fields told Westword that the 2012 movement to repeal the death penalty felt like a “slap in the face.” She also noted that, in the wake of the chilling Aurora Theater massacre, the effort would send the wrong message to a shocked and reeling nation. “I think it’s an insult to crime victims,” she said. “I don’t think the timing is right.”

Maybe now the timing is right. It would be an enormous win for Guzman and the repeal effort if Fields came out in support.

Priola

Freshman Sen. Kevin Priola, a Henderson Republican, is Catholic. In 2012, Priola joined with Democratic House colleagues to sponsor a death penalty repeal bill. Priola appears to be one of many Catholics who take the full-range pro-life stance. The idea is that taking the life of anyone, even a murderer, is to reject an essential message of the Gospel, which is that human life — any human life, one lived out in the halls of the Legislature or between the walls of a prison cell — is about having to make the constant choice to accept the Lord as savior, to ask forgiveness, and to walk the path of the faithful. Taking a life is to insert yourself between god and human.

john@coloradostatesman.com

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.