Colorado abolished the penalty on Monday, making it the twenty-second state to do so. Governor Polis signed a bill after it passed the State House and Senate earlier this year.
Capital punishment was halted in 1972 through Furman v. Georgia as “cruel and unusual punishment,” but then reinstated through Gregg v. Georgia in 1976. Since this reinstatement, only one person in Colorado has been executed, with 1,517 executions occurring nationally since 1976. When Governor Polis signed this bill into law, there were three inmates on death row that were given new sentences of life in prison without the ability to parole.
Further, people of color are disproportionately put on death row, as they represent 55% of those who are currently awaiting execution. On the federal level from 1995-2000, “805% of all the federal cases recommended by U.S. Attorneys to the Attorney General seeking the death penalty involve people of color.” Governor Polis noted this when signing this bill, stating that “the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado.”
Sources: New York Times 3/23/20; Supreme Court 1971; Supreme Court 1976; NBC News 3/23/20; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 2020