Bob Autobee "drops out" of death penalty battle for son's killer, Edward Montour

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"We've dropped out of the legal process because I can't see putting Montour to death for his part in this murder and not punishing the state for its part," Autobee says. "They've learned nothing from my son's death. We're losing control of the prisons."

Already serving a life sentence for killing his infant daughter, Montour attacked 23-year-old Eric Autobee at the Limon Correctional Facility with a heavy ladle he'd obtained from the prison kitchen. It was the first inmate killing of an officer in the DOC in 73 years. Montour pleaded guilty to first degree murder, but the Colorado Supreme Court threw out his death sentence in 2007 because it hadn't been imposed by a jury. Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers and the Colorado Attorney General's Office have been seeking to get the death penalty reinstated in his case for the past five years.

Chambers's successor, George Brauchler, faces a critical decision about whether to continue to pursue the costly execution battle at a hearing scheduled for February. Montour lawyer David Lane says his client will withdraw his guilty plea if the state keeps pushing for the death penalty, but he's agreed to "stay in a little supermax cell for the rest of his life" and not contest his conviction if the prosecution will forego its quest for execution.

Although Colorado currently has three inmates on death row, it's only managed to execute one prisoner -- Gary Davis -- in the past forty years. Autobee says he supports Lane's proposal, calling the death penalty in Colorado "a joke" and pointing out that Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap has been sitting on death row for nearly twenty years now.

"Montour will probably die a natural death," Autobee says. "We're fine with that. I'm pro-death penalty, but in the situation our state is in, is it really a fair option? Ten years of my life has gone by, and we're still fighting the same battle."

Continue to read more of our interview with Bob Autobee.
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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast