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Colorado House gives final approval to death penalty repeal, sending bill to governor’s desk

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Derek Draplin | The Center Square

The Colorado House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill repealing the death penalty in the state, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk.

This session’s death penalty repeal bill had bipartisan support in the Senate, which passed the proposal last month. The House approved Senate Bill 100 on third reading Wednesday in a 38-27 vote following hours of emotional debate. 

“The death penalty is applied inconsistently and it is the one punishment in our entire justice system that can’t be undone or corrected,” Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Brighton, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement.

Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign the legislation into law.

The bill was once again opposed by Republicans in both chambers along with Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, whose son and his fiancee were murdered by two of the three men that are currently on Colorado’s death row. Three Democrats in the House also voted against the bill on Wednesday. 

Opponents of the bill argued that Colorado voters, rather than the legislature, should determine the fate of the death penalty in the state. 

Last year’s death penalty repeal bill failed in the Senate in part because of Fields’ opposition.

“What this body is doing is they’re mandating the abolishment of the death penalty at the expense of victims,” Fields said in January before the Senate passed SB 100. “Who are you serving and who are you protecting by this action?” 

SB 100 will not apply to the three men currently on death row in the state, but their sentences could be commuted by the governor.