Criminal Justice, Elections, Featured, Original Report

Hickenlooper suggests full clemency an option if death penalty becomes too big an issue

Audio obtained by Complete Colorado has raised significant new issues regarding Governor John Hickenlooper’s stance on the death penalty.

In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper suggested that if he does not win reelection, he could use his executive powers to overhaul Colorado’s death row with clemency. In particular, the Governor suggested these remedies were conditional — if his opponent turned the death penalty, or the Dunlap case in particular, into a “political football.”

In the audio, the unidentified CNN interviewer asks, “But it (the death penalty) is an issue.  And, you know, some of your opponents immediately announced that they were going to run on a death penalty platform, um, and in a sense, are putting themselves out there, and not that I’m thinking specifically of (Tom) Tancredo but I believe there are probably others, who are saying, ‘Elect me, and we’ll kill this guy.’  Doesn’t that feel kind of like a lynch mob? I mean in some, in some sense?”

“Well we won’t let that happen, I mean, that’s obviously, that is — does, feel that way.” Hickenlooper interrupts.  “And, you know, if that becomes a political issue, in that context within a campaign, um, obviously there’s a period of time between the election and, and the end of the year where individuals can make decisions, such as a governor can.”  (Audio begins at 19:56 in the embedded clip below.)

The news was broken Saturday morning on The Craig Silverman Show, 710 KNUS, after Complete Colorado obtained the audio tape of the full CNN interview via a Colorado Open Records Act request.

Several minutes later in the interview, a different member of the CNN crew asks Hickenlooper to add more specifics, “…can you detail what you mean by what you said?”  (This second question begins at 41:19 of the audio).

“Well, you don’t want to go into too much detail in these cases,” Hickenlooper began.  “But, you know, the, the, issue that a political campaign would make a human life, into, you know, a political football, is unacceptable.  Right? And it’s not… and a) I, I think it would backfire tremendously on any candidate that did that.  And if they did do that, and if somehow they won, there are obviously remedies that the governor can do, you know, I could give it a full clemency between election day and the end of the year, I could…there are a number of different opportunities to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Again, keeping in mind it should not be a political football.”

In both cases, Hickenlooper appears to be answering if the scenario is that the opponent makes the death penalty into a major issue in the campaign, but never provides specifics to know when or how that threshold has been reached.

Embedded is a podcast of Silverman discussing the issue with 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler, who is now responsible for administering any remaining issues with the Dunlap case.

Just last Sunday, Governor Hickenlooper told Fox 31’s Eli Stokols he was officially against the death penalty, reversing his stance from the 2010 election.

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