“My support for the death penalty’s repeal is rooted in my respect for the dignity of all human life,” the archbishop said May 22.
“Every human being has a fundamental right to life. It is wrong to take life needlessly, either through execution, or abortion, or criminal acts of violence.”
“Humanity is at its best when it protects and defends human life from the time of conception until natural death. Let us continue to work for peace in our families, our communities, and in our state,” he added.
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday chose to delay Nathan Dunlap’s execution three months before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.
He said in an executive order that Colorado’s capital punishment system is “not flawless.” Hickenlooper noted that death sentences are not handed down “fairly,” citing a judge who said the punishment is the result of “happenstance” like a district attorney’s decision, the jurisdiction of the trial, and possibly the race or economic circumstances of the defendant.
“Colorado’s system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently inequitable,” the governor said after announcing the order. “Such a level of punishment really does demand perfection.”
Although the governor refrained from granting full clemency to Dunlap, he said it is “highly unlikely” he will reconsider the death penalty for his case, the Denver Post reports.
Dunlap was convicted of killing four employees, including several teenagers, at an Aurora, Colo. Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza parlor in 1993. He was 19 at the time and a former employee of the restaurant. He shot and seriously wounded a fifth employee before stealing about $1,500.
His attorneys have argued that Dunlap was a victim of continual abuse as a youth and suffers from bipolar disorder. They said he was in the middle of a manic episode when the killings took place.
Many relatives of the victims responded to the temporary reprieve with anger and disappointment.
“The knife that’s been in my back…was just twisted by the governor,” Bob Crowell, whose 19-year-old daughter Sylvia was among the slain, told the Denver Post after a conference call between the governor and victims’ families.
Archbishop Aquila voiced his support for the victims and their families.
“My heart goes out most to the families of the victims of Dunlap’s heinous crime,” he said. “I pray that they will find closure to the violence that was committed to their loved ones and to them. Few of us will ever experience that type of violence.”
However, he said Gov. Hickenlooper was right to emphasize that execution is “a matter which should be considered thoughtfully by all Coloradans.”
“Coloradans should work together to end the practice of punitive killing – for the sake of justice, and the sake of human dignity,” he said.
“When will Americans open their eyes to recognize that violence only begets violence? We who stood for the life of Nathan Dunlap should work together to end violence undertaken in our state, in the womb, and in our hearts,” the archbishop added. (CNA)