Lawmaker: Death penalty vote delayed so people can have say
DENVER — Call it an act of defiance or a parliamentary maneuver, Rep. Rhonda Fields said Wednesday she intentionally delayed a vote on her bill calling on Coloradans to decide if the state should repeal the death penalty.
That’s why she asked the House Local Government Committee, which she chairs, to delay voting on her measure to send the issue to the ballot after taking about two hours of testimony on it.
The Aurora Democrat said she supports the death penalty and wants to keep her bill alive to use as leverage against another controversial measure, HB1264, that the House Judiciary Committee heard nine hours of testimony on Tuesday.
That bill would do away with the death penalty without a vote of the people.
“My whole rationale for running this bill is I don’t want to see the death penalty abolished because it does impact justice that was served on three other people,” Fields said. “When you look at the language of the bill, they call it a failed public policy.”
She doesn’t want that language to be used to get those three people off of Colorado’s death row.
That’s because two of them, Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens, killed her son, Javad Marshall-Fields, in 2005.
Her son had agreed to testify as a witness to a 2004 murder but was gunned down in his own car along with his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, before he could.
On Tuesday, the judiciary committee spent five hours hearing testimony from witnesses on the bill to do away with the penalty, but only allowed two opponents to speak during that time, making the others wait several hours.
Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs and a member of both the judiciary and local government committees, said it was a cheap trick designed to get good publicity for the bill.
“The order of testimony and the timing of it was so orchestrated to ensure that the proponents of repeal got on the five o’clock news and the made the print news deadlines,” Gardner said. “The idea that we would have prevented elected district attorneys who had factual information about the death penalty, and who could refute a lot of the charges made about it, were denied the opportunity to testify until seven and eight o’clock. It was just a travesty.”
In the end, though, Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, delayed a vote on that measure. It was yet to be rescheduled.