Crime

Nathan Dunlap: Mom of victim Ben Grant latest to call for killer to die

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Then, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky, representing twelve other ex-judges, gets specific about Dunlap. She writes:
"Assuming that the death penalty may sometimes be appropriate, there is no principled reason for it to be applied in the circumstances of this case. Nathan Dunlap's mental illness is being controlled with appropriate medication. He should be punished for his crimes, not by being put to death, but by spending the rest of his life in prison."

From there, the document offers a statement of regret from Dunlap. In his words, "I'm sorry for the pain and suffering I've caused the victims' families and friends, Bobby Stephens and his family and friends, and my family and friends. I'm sorry for the hate that I've created. I'm sorry for the loss of life. The loss of friends, family and loved ones. I'm just sorry for everything that happened on December 14, 1993, and the ripple effect that followed.... I know saying, writing and feeling sorry isn't enough and I wish there was something more that I could do to relieve any pain."

At that point, clemency petition authors Madeline S. Cohen and Philip A. Cherner lay out the basics of their argument:

There are many reasons to spare Nathan Dunlap, and there is no principled reason to execute him. He has been safely housed in prison for nearly twenty years, and he poses no danger to others. His execution will have no deterrent effect, and his case involves the same problems of racial bias, arbitrariness, and geographical disparity that have led to calls for the repeal or reform of Colorado's death penalty.

Nathan Dunlap's childhood was characterized by extreme physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The jury that sentenced him to death knew nothing of his serious mental illness, or the role of that illness in his commission of the murders. Nathan Dunlap -- then 19 years old -- was in the grip of his first full-blown manic phase when he committed his terrible crime.

The mental-health arguments take up a large portion of the document. Dunlap is said to come from a family that's struggled against such issues for five generations, with his mother, Carol Dunlap, suffering from bipolar disorder that terrified her children.

Continue for more about Nathan Dunlap's clemency petition.
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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