Crime

John Hickenlooper gives Nathan Dunlap reprieve from death but doesn't grant clemency

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"We have more than two dozen letters representing literally hundreds of people," Cohen notes. "There are retired judges who talk about it from their perspectives, including judges who've presided over death-penalty cases and have seen the strain they put on the system from a human and legal perspective. There are former prosecutors, who talk about how ineffective the death penalty is, and many, many faith leaders, who speak from all different faith perspectives about why we shouldn't carry out an execution.

"We also have mental health professionals who focus on Nathan's mental illness as a reason not to execute him, and 75 different academics from six different universities in Colorado: CU-Boulder, CU-Denver, CSU, Northern Colorado, DU and Regis. There's also the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the ACLU -- so many different voices that say it is wrong to execute Nathan Dunlap."

Cohen stresses that "none of these people minimize his crime. Every single one of us -- including his lawyers and Nathan himself -- all of his supporters absolutely acknowledge that he committed a terrible crime and he will continue to be punished for it. He will spend the rest of his life in prison no matter what, and he's never getting out. The question is, does the state kill him or does he live out the rest of his days before he dies a natural death in prison."

The latter may sound like Dunlap is getting off easily in comparison with execution, but Cohen disputes that interpretation.

"The conditions Nathan lives in are extreme," she says. "He's in a cell by himself that's the size of two king-size mattresses, and he gets one hour a day to exercise in a room that's about the same size as his cell. It's got a pull-up bar and the only fresh air and sunshine he gets is through a grate over the room."

In addition, "he's escorted everywhere with five-point restraints, and he never gets to touch anyone, other than getting to shake hands with his lawyers through a small pass-through in the visiting glass. And he's not open for visits from non-lawyers. It is not a cushy existence, it's not hanging out in the yard playing poker and living the good life."

When asked about the steady stream of execution calls coming from Brauchler's office, Cohen defers, saying, "I don't really feel comfortable speaking to that. I think they feel strongly that's the position they want to take and they're pursuing it in a way they feel is appropriate. I don't want to get into a pissing contest."

There is one thing to which she takes exception, though.

Continue for more about Nathan Dunlap's clemency bid, including another photo and documents.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts