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Offered by Brighton Criminal Defense Attorney Gregory R. McMahon

An Arapahoe County jury recently convicted James Holmes of 24 counts of First Degree Murder. Many people expected that he would receive the death penalty.

But, following the penalty phase of his trial, the jurors did not reach unanimous agreement on death. The result is that Holmes will face life without parole in the Colorado Department of Corrections. This raises the question of whether prosecutors will continue to seek the death penalty in future cases.

Consider the following: There are currently only three people on death row in Colorado; Robert Ray (sentenced to death in 2009), Sir Mario Owens (sentenced to death in 2008), and Nathan Dunlap (sentenced to death in 1996).

Colorado’s last execution was in 1997, almost 20 years ago, when Gary Lee Davis, 53, was executed by lethal injection.

In 2013, Governor Hickenlooper granted Nathan Dunlap a Death Sentence Reprieve, stating, “If the State of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado’s system for capital punishment is not flawless.”

Given Hickenlooper’s action, the difficulty involved in persuading juries to impose the death penalty, and the inevitable time and expense that death penalty cases involve, it may be that many District Attorneys in Colorado will be less inclined to seek the death penalty in the near future.

(At time of this writing, the high-profile death penalty trial of Dexter Lewis is underway in Denver. Lewis has been found guilty of murdering five people. However, the jury has yet to decide if he should be sentenced to death, or life in prison.)

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