Attorney General Suthers Criticizes Committee Amendment To Death Penalty Bill

DENVER – Colorado Attorney General John Suthers today criticized an amendment by the House Committee on Appropriations to House Bill 1094. The amended version of the bill will halve the Department of Law’s Capital Crimes and Homicide Assistance Unit from four employees to two.

The Capital Crimes and Homicide Assistance Unit currently consists of two attorneys, an investigator, and one support staff member. The unit provides assistance to local district attorneys, at their request, on current and cold case homicide investigations, particularly cases that could be subject to the death penalty. The attorneys assist in grand jury investigations, legal research, motions practice, and other court proceedings. Once a death penalty is requested, the unit provides all necessary work requested by the DA. The unit typically handles death penalty cases on appeal as well.

Over the past three years, members of the unit have assisted with many investigations, notably:

  • Montour – Edward Montour was convicted of killing his 11-week old daughter and later, Sgt. Eric Autobee of the Limon Correctional Facility. Montour stated that he murdered Autobee because he believed that Colorado’s death penalty would be held unconstitutional.
  • Ray, Carter, and Owens – The district attorney has filed notice to seek the death penalty against these three individuals indicted on charges for the killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe, in Aurora.
  • Bueno and Perez - The district attorney has filed notice to seek the death penalty against these two men for the killing of a fellow inmate at the Limon Correctional Facility.
  • Medina – Mr. Medina was charged with drowning his 16-month old son in a sewage ditch. The district attorney has filed notice to seek the death penalty.

Expanded information on each of the above cases, as well as information on other unit activities, can be found in the attached letter, sent from First Assistant Attorney General Sue Trout to Governor Bill Ritter earlier this year. The letter contains a summary of the unit’s training program, which has successfully delivered presentations on capital prosecution to numerous district attorney offices.

“Opponents of the death penalty have been unsuccessful in their effort to abolish it, so they are now taking a backdoor approach,” said the Attorney General. “If Colorado has a death penalty, prosecutors need the resources to make it viable. Our unit is extremely busy and there are several heinous cases in Colorado in which the death penalty has been requested or is being contemplated.”

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