Arapahoe DA Under Fire For Death Penalty Decisions

February 29 2008, 12:03 PM

Arapahoe District Attorney Carol Chambers is making news again, this time with her extravagant requests for reimbursement for her prosecutors in death penalty cases. Before getting to the facts of the current controversy, here's the money quote in my view:

[S]ix of seven Colorado defendants facing possible death sentences in pending cases are being prosecuted by Chambers' office.

Only one inmate has been executed in Colorado in the past 40 years. Currently, there is one inmate on death row. Back to DA Chambers. She's seeking the death penalty for two inmates at Limon Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison, for killing another inmate. She has just requested reimbursement from the state Department of Corrections for $204,000 for work in the past year on the case.

"Under Colorado law, counties can be reimbursed by the DOC to prosecute crimes committed in state prisons....Part of the bill to the DOC went to fund the entire salary of Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan May, as well as paying for expert witnesses, mileage and lodging."

Even more problematic is Chambers' excuse for her office's expenditure: It's the defense attorneys' fault.

That is exactly the problem with the death penalty in Colorado," Chambers wrote. "The defense bar has effectively precluded prosecutors from seeking it because they can and do make it many times more expensive than it needs to be."

The Supreme Court has said many times since 1972 in Furman v. Georgia that "death is a unique punishment" and "death . . . is in a class by itself") and requires unique safeguards. I think it's outrageous that a prosecutor would criticize defense attorneys for upholding their duty to represent their clients zealously within the bounds of the law in the face of a possible death sentence.

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