Executions are a statement on the precious right to life

By: Owen Hill
June 16, 2013 Updated: June 16, 2013 at 8:30 am
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The longer I watch Gov. Hickenlooper, the more I think he makes decisions based on whatever episode of "West Wing" he last saw. One of the episodes ends with the president kneeling to ask forgiveness from a priest for not pardoning a man on death row. Unfortunately, it seems our governor watched that episode and tried to make amends for his general lack of conviction by suspending the conviction of mass-murderer Nathan Dunlap.

Hollywood has a bad habit of trying to convince us that personal feelings are more important than the strength of our community. Objective observers of all political stripes know that this strength comes from a set of rules and laws that apply equally to all people. Subjective personal feelings must be set aside in favor of a fair system that gives everyone, from the rich and powerful to the poor and disenfranchised, the same opportunity.

The only way to ensure that all citizens have a fair shot at justice is to institute laws that apply to everybody. These laws must establish a process for making legal decisions in our communities. For this to work, nobody can be above the law, and the laws have to be written in a way that ensures those with money and power can't hire lawyers and get around the laws on technicalities.

This idea is called due process - when everyone has the same legal process, our whole community benefits.

In Nathan Dunlap's case, he has gone through this due process. He was convicted by a jury of his peers and multiple appeals ensured that the right decision was made.

Throughout the due process, our laws determined that for murdering four people in a deliberate, planned way, Nathan Dunlap had to pay the ultimate price.

The purpose of execution is not only to enact justice, but also to make the statement that when you do something so heinous, so despicable, you will be executed.

This is not just a deterrent, but a symbolic statement of how precious the right to life really is. It is our way of standing up for the rights of those who have had all their rights taken from them. It is our way of giving voice to those who have had their voice silenced by murder. It is our way of reminding grieving loved ones that the ruthless destruction of humanity will be met with impartial justice.

And so, when Gov. Hickenlooper decided that his personal feelings are more important than our rule of law, he violated the equal treatment of everyone and undermined the legal system that has promised liberty and justice for all.

It appears the talk about Gov. Hickenlooper running for president has made him begin to fantasize about himself in this role already.

Instead of standing up for those who have had everything taken away, he is living vicariously through the Hollywood drama The West Wing.

He was wrong to give reprieve to Nathan Dunlap.


Owen Hill is a state senator from Colorado Springs. He previously worked for Compassion International advocating for children in poverty worldwide.

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