Sponsors of a bill to repeal Colorado's capital punishment law gave it a "dignified death" and pulled it off the Senate calendar Tuesday, making it the sixth time in 19 years that lawmakers have proposed a repeal and then failed to pass it.
Senate Bill 182 had faced a series of postponements on the legislative calendar over the past month as its four Democratic sponsors sought votes to pass it.
Gov. Jared Polis, also a Democrat, has said he supported a death-penalty repeal. His predecessor, Democrat John Hickenlooper, did not carry out a death penalty sentence during his eight years in office, but stopped short of supporting the end of the capital punishment law.
"For many of us, this has not been solely a head issue," said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, a prime sponsor of the bill, who spoke of her family's loss to violence. "It's a heart issue."
Gonzales said she asked for more time so her fellow lawmakers could fully consider the bill.
"I believe wholeheartedly that the way in which we treat each other in this process is as important as the process itself," she said on the Senate floor, "so when this bill comes back next session, there will be nothing left to hide behind."
Colorado's last execution -- in fact, its only one since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977 -- was of murderer and rapist Gary Lee Davis in 1997. Before that, Luis José Monge, who killed his wife and three children, was put to death in 1967.
Three men are on Colorado's death row: Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993; as well as Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, co-defendants convicted in the 2005 killing of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancé, Vivian Wolfe. Marshall-Fields was a witness against Ray in another killing.
Marshall-Fields' mother, Rhonda Fields, is now a state senator. Both she and fellow Democrat Rep. Tom Sullivan, who lost his son in the Aurora theater massacre, came out in opposition to repealing the death penalty.
Twenty states have ended the death penalty. The Washington Supreme Court last year struck down the state's capital punishment law, saying it was "imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared a moratorium on executions, with 737 prisoners currently on the state's death row. California hasn't carried out and execution since 2006.
Hickenlooper effectively did the same in 2013 when he said he would leave Dunlap's execution to another governor while he opposed legislative efforts that year to outlaw the practice.
Polis joined governors of Oregon and Pennsylvania, both Democrats, who have said they would support repeal capital punishment.
“I’ve been clear that if the legislature passed a bill to abolish the death penalty, I would sign it,” Polis said in a statement last month.