Criminal Justice, Featured

Silverman: Dear Gov, thanks for being more enlightened than us

Good for you, John Hickenlooper. The death penalty abolitionists have been waiting for you. They expected you sooner but all’s well that ends well. You showed such bravery last winter coming out to CNN with your fully evolved feelings opposing capital punishment. As Governor, you will not allow capital punishment in Colorado. You’ll be the savior of Holmes, Lewis, Ray, Owens, and Dunlap.

Spring of 2013 was so confusing. On March 26, you killed the death penalty repeal bill in the legislature. Less than two months later, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Nathan Dunlap’s last appeal and his execution was set for that August, your mind began to change. So what if you said you were for the death penalty in 2010. Humans evolve — unless they’re Republicans.

On May 22, 2013, you heroically and single handedly stopped the freight train about to run over Nathan Dunlap with your “temporary reprieve.” You could have done nothing, but you intervened even as your thoughts were still evolving. That’s foresight. That’s courage.

How fortunate for you to have fully evolved in time for the February 6, 2014 arrival at your Capitol office of that CNN crew working for Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon. You and your guests could not have been friendlier as you detailed for CNN’s international audience your full opposition to capital punishment.

Just to make sure CNN got it right, you made your own audio recording, which found its way to Todd Shepherd (Complete Colorado) and through him, to me for our August 23, 2014 exclusive on “The Craig Silverman Show.” It’s strange how CNN has yet to air the Nathan Dunlap episode of “Death Row Stories.” Was it something you said?

Maybe CNN’s not as gutsy for you as you are for yourself. Most politicians couldn’t survive your “lame duck clemency” assurances, but you’re no ordinary politician. You’re bullet proof. Besides, the Denver Post and most local media will love it. Your forty minute dissertation against capital punishment is a nice synopsis of decades of Denver Post editorials. The Aurora Sentinel has already embraced your death penalty opposition.

When CNN asked about systemic problems with capital punishment, you valiantly adopted and exaggerated all the arguments of the most vehement abolitionists. We can hardly wait to watch it on television. You gave CNN your reasoning with that endearing Hick speaking style that involves a rise in passion and volume at the end of important sentences as illustrated below by CAPITAL LETTERS:

Hick to CNN: It’s just the nature of justice and being human. Eyewitnesses, who are absolutely sure that they saw something, or saw somebody, at a moment in time, turn out TO BE WRONG – AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. (Unintelligible) They’re not trying to be wrong. They’re not trying to, you know, convict some innocent person, BUT THEY DO.

And now with DNA evidence, there are 140 different examples of people who were convicted and given the death sentence who were later found to be innocent, and many of them WERE EXECUTED. So, in that sense, it’s unfair and certainly doesn’t serve justice well.

No wonder you’re against capital punishment. You, Governor Hickenlooper, fully accept the stats of the far left Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). So what if the left leaning Innocence Project claims there have been only eighteen death row exonerations based on DNA. Few serious students of capital punishment, besides you, believe in the accuracy of the DPIC list of over 140 exonerations.

As Governor, you have every right to ignore Steve Stewart, a pro-death penalty prosecutor in Clark County Indiana, who writes that DPIC is an internet site that “makes absolutely no effort to present any pro-death penalty views, and liberally spreads propaganda and rhetoric on behalf of ‘the (abolition) cause.’” Who cares about California Assistant Attorney General Ward A. Campbell’s well researched critique of the DPIC exoneration list?

You have the unfettered power to disregard death penalty scholar Dudley Sharp who writes, “The death penalty debate in the U.S. is dominated by the fraudulent voice of the anti-death penalty movement. The culture of lies and deceit so dominates that movement that many of the falsehoods are now wrongly accepted as fact, by both advocates and opponents of capital punishment… If you are even casually aware of this public debate, you will note that every category contradicts the well-worn frauds presented by the anti-death penalty movement. The anti-death penalty movement specializes in the abolition of truth…”

No red blooded progressive could believe Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court concurring opinion documenting death penalty abolitionists’ exoneration inflation and exaggeration. Scalia must have been wrong when he wrote that “mischaracterization of reversible error as actual innocence is endemic in abolitionist rhetoric, and other prominent catalogues of ‘innocence’ in the death-penalty context suffer from the same defect. Perhaps the best-known of them is the List of Those Freed From Death Row, maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center.”

The 140 exonerations is only one aspect of your newfound opposition to capital punishment. In your inimitable style, you told CNN about your “arbitrary and capricious” objection, which was music to their ears:

Hick to CNN: The other side of it that also is, that is (sic), IT’S CAPRICIOUS. IT’S ARBITRARY. One district attorney decides for the same crime that, this merits a death penalty, a death capital punishment prosecution. The next county over, the district attorney says, no, we’ll just go, we’ll do this life in prison without parole.

We get your good point loud and clear Governor Hickenlooper. Why should an election decide such an outcome? It would be arbitrary and capricious to allow some future Colorado governor to kill Holmes, Lewis, Ray, Owens, or Dunlap when you can stop it with the stroke of your pen.

It’s so ridiculous the way the Republicans speak about good and evil as if such concepts exist. Don’t they understand mental health issues the way you do? No killer is in their right mind. Or they wouldn’t kill.

The more they kill, the more insane they are. As Governor, you witnessed the Aurora Theater Massacre, one of the most premeditated mass murders and violent crime episodes in American history. You had the inner courage to turn that event into part of your evolution against capital punishment.

Juries may say Holmes or Dunlap is sane and worthy of death. But you know better. You’re more enlightened. As you told CNN, the criminal justice system is racist. It’s just like Ferguson. More people need to watch CNN.

Your idea of lame duck clemencies is brilliant. You not only stopped the Dunlap execution, but in your next move, you can derail five death penalty trains at once. And just your veto threat has already caused some DAs to back away. We can all see what’s coming. Why waste precious tax money?

So surely you won’t limit your lame duck clemency to Dunlap. Death row will be empty when you leave office and not because anybody has been executed. It would be arbitrary and capricious to grant clemency to only one condemned person. Besides, if you don’t grant clemencies to all death row defendants, it will haunt you if they ever are executed. You would be as responsible for their executions as your successor Governor.

We know you can and will stop capital punishment in Colorado. The system is so unfair. Heck Hick, you couldn’t even be on the Holmes or Lewis juries since you oppose Colorado’s death penalty law. That’s yet another flaw in the system. Thank goodness you’ll get the final word. You’re so much more evolved and enlightened than the average person.

Craig Silverman is a partner in the downtown Denver law firm of Silverman & Olivas, specializing in personal injury law, criminal matters, and problem solving. He served for sixteen years at the Denver District Attorney’s Office where he was a Chief Deputy District Attorney. Craig has appeared hundreds of times on local and national media on number of wide-ranging topics and stories including the JonBenet Ramsey case, Columbine, the Oklahoma City Bombing trials, the Kobe Bryant case, and the Aurora movie theater massacre.  Craig Silverman has been a regular panelist for more than a decade on the award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television Channel 12, and he currently hosts The Craig Silverman Show on Saturdays (9-noon) on 710KNUS.


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