Tag Archives: Corrections Department

The upside down logic of executing Nathan Dunlap

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler lives in an upside down world where strapping someone to a gurney and injecting him with lethal chemicals is “courageous” and deciding not to do this is “cruel and unjust.”

In a letter to the governor supporting the execution of Nathan Dunlap, Mr. Brauchler

questioned the motives and ethics of those who have argued on Dunlap’s behalf, and those who diagnosed and treated him for mental illness.

“Questioned the motives”?  Questioned?  The motive is, um, to keep Colorado from executing Mr. Dunlap.  Not sure what’s in question.  It’s right out there in the open.

Pause for disclosure of my motive:  My view is that the death penalty is wrong and that my state should not execute Mr. Dunlap.  Even if you generally favor or are undecided on the death penalty in the abstract, however, there are many, many reasons why it would be wrong in this case. You can read the clemency petition here, write to Governor Hickenlooper, or call him at 303-866-2471.  5280 magazine published a long article in 2008 that spelled out the history of the case.

Back to snarking on the DA.

Mr. Brauchler decries the “abandonment of professional ethics.” The ethics of trying to keep someone alive?  I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means.  I have scoured the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct and can find nothing suggesting it is unethical to urge the governor not to kill someone.

The DA characterizes as “convenient ‘scientific’ epiphanies” — the scare quotes around “scientific” are his — the now widely-accepted conclusion that Mr. Dunlap had a severe, undiagnosed mental illness when he committed the crime for which he is to be executed.  The diagnosis at which Mr. Brauchler sneers is one that has, since Mr. Dunlap’s sentencing, been confirmed and treated by Department of Corrections doctors.

More scare quotes.  Can’t you just see him wiggling the first two fingers of each hand when he complains that

our state’s leaders are asked to accept as ‘objective’ evidence the conclusions of the anti-death penalty movement’s ‘best and brightest’ experts, and to ignore their obvious collaborative biases . . .

Well, the movement does have some excellent (“best”) and very smart (“brightest”) people, who work together (“collaborate”) to do what they think is right (“bias”?).  Ouch!

And his letter

called assertions by the defense that race plays a role in imposing the death penalty in Colorado “vile, disgusting and offensive.”

Those are the adjectives you use when you don’t have facts.  In fact, as of 2010, 41% of prisoners under sentence of death in the US were black, while only 13.6% of the population as a whole is black.  There are three people on Colorado’s death row; all three are black.  Studies in other states have shown that blacks killing whites are much more likely to get the death penalty than any other permutation, and that prosecutors are much more likely to seek the death penalty for black defendants.

Ultimately, it is the racism in our criminal justice system that is vile, disgusting, and offensive; not the act of calling attention to that fact.

The clemency petition provides measured, fact-based arguments why it would be a very bad idea to execute Nathan Dunlop. Many people, of many different faiths and backgrounds, agree with this:

Dunlap letters

All the DA has to offer in return is a salad shooter of insults: cruel; unjust; slap in the face; questionable motives; unethical; “objective” “scientific” evidence; collaborative bias; vile; disgusting; offensive.  And the unsupported pronouncement that Mr. Dunlap “took the lives of four Colorado citizens, and justice requires he now pays with his own.”

There is no good reason for this execution; just the satisfaction of the primitive desire for revenge.  Guess that’s my bias.