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Mile High Murder: Three's hardly a crowd on Colorado death row after Robert Ray's sentence

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Yesterday, Robert Ray was sentenced to death in connection with the 2005 murders of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe -- a verdict that duplicated the one previously given to Ray's accomplice, Sir Mario Owens. The ruling brings the population of Colorado's death row to three; Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted in 1996 of four slayings at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, is the third member of this ignominious group.

Both Owens and Ray were on a list of "Inmates Waitin' Around to Die" -- the title of Alan Prendergast's sidebar to a feature article about Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers' approach to billing the prison system for expensive death-penalty prosecutions. As for the states with the largest death row populations, California, Florida and Texas traditionally lead the pack, and their stats certainly dwarf Colorado's. According to a searchable page on the Death Penalty Information Center website, California's current death-row population is 678, followed by Florida with 402 and Texas with 358.

These numbers will reassure most Coloradans -- but not the friends and family of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe.

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