Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has called for the repeal of the death penalty following the Colorado governor’s grant of a temporary reprieve to a death row inmate convicted of four murders.
“My support for the death penalty’s repeal is rooted in my respect for
the dignity of all human life,” the archbishop said May 22.
“Every human being has a fundamental right to life. It is wrong to take
life needlessly, either through execution, or abortion, or criminal acts
“Humanity is at its best when it protects and defends human life from
the time of conception until natural death. Let us continue to work for
peace in our families, our communities, and in our state,” he added.
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday chose to delay Nathan Dunlap’s
execution three months before he was scheduled to die by lethal
He said in an executive order that Colorado’s capital punishment system
is “not flawless.” Hickenlooper noted that death sentences are not
handed down “fairly,” citing a judge who said the punishment is the
result of “happenstance” like a district attorney’s decision, the
jurisdiction of the trial, and possibly the race or economic
circumstances of the defendant.
“Colorado’s system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently
inequitable,” the governor said after announcing the order. “Such a
level of punishment really does demand perfection.”
Although the governor refrained from granting full clemency to Dunlap,
he said it is “highly unlikely” he will reconsider the death penalty for
his case, the Denver Post reports.
Dunlap was convicted of killing four employees, including several
teenagers, at an Aurora, Colo. Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza parlor in 1993.
He was 19 at the time and a former employee of the restaurant. He shot
and seriously wounded a fifth employee before stealing about $1,500.
His attorneys have argued that Dunlap was a victim of continual abuse as
a youth and suffers from bipolar disorder. They said he was in the
middle of a manic episode when the killings took place.
Many relatives of the victims responded to the temporary reprieve with anger and disappointment.
“The knife that's been in my back...was just twisted by the governor,”
Bob Crowell, whose 19-year-old daughter Sylvia was among the slain, told
the Denver Post after a conference call between the governor and
Archbishop Aquila voiced his support for the victims and their families.
“My heart goes out most to the families of the victims of Dunlap’s
heinous crime,” he said. “I pray that they will find closure to the
violence that was committed to their loved ones and to them. Few of us
will ever experience that type of violence.”
However, he said Gov. Hickenlooper was right to emphasize that execution
is “a matter which should be considered thoughtfully by all
“Coloradans should work together to end the practice of punitive killing
– for the sake of justice, and the sake of human dignity,” he said.
“When will Americans open their eyes to recognize that violence only
begets violence? We who stood for the life of Nathan Dunlap should work
together to end violence undertaken in our state, in the womb, and in
our hearts,” the archbishop added.