A man’s life literally hangs in the balance in this year’s governor’s race in Colorado. As I explained earlier this month, Republican candidate Bob Beauprez has singled out a death row inmate by name and promised to ensure that he will be killed. “When I’m governor, Nathan Dunlap will be executed,” Beauprez has said.
Dunlap was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996 for murdering four of his Chuck E. Cheese coworkers. But when his execution date neared last year, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a stay, though he refrained from offering permanent reprieve. Hickenlooper backed capital punishment in his 2010 campaign, but has since become an opponent, citing studies demonstrating the death penalty is not an effective deterrent, the cost of executions, and evidence showing it is inconsistently applied. The governor has also expressed qualms about Dunlap’s mental illness and regrets jurors expressed about the case after sentencing.
The Republican Governors Association has joined Beauprez’s cause in criticizing Hickenlooper for keeping Dunlap alive. The RGA recruited the father of one of Dunlap’s victims to star in an ad and call Hickenlooper a “coward” who should be voted out of office. “There’s not a day that goes by, I don’t think about her,” Dennis O’Connor says, looking right at the camera. “You thought you got your day in court and your justice, and I feel most of us were robbed of that.”
Here’s the ad, which the RGA has reportedly backed with $2 million worth of airtime:
Hickenlooper’s campaign has called foul, saying the ad should be pulled for airing false information. At one point the ad suggests that Hickenlooper might “set him free.” While Hickenlooper has said he would consider making the temporary reprieve permanent if he loses the race, that would just keep Dunlap off death row and reduce his sentence to life in prison. Hickenlooper isn’t about to set Dunlap free to roam the streets of Denver.
The Denver Post, which is cited as the source for the RGA’s disputed claim, published an editorial on Tuesday calling the ad’s claims “preposterous” and misleading. As the editorial board wrote, “The article in question says no such thing about the possible release of Dunlap, no doubt because freedom for Dunlap is unthinkable.”