Plan to eliminate death penalty given initial OK |

Plan to eliminate death penalty given initial OK

DENVER ” The Colorado House gave tentative approval Wednesday to a plan to eliminate the death penalty and use the money to focus on cold cases after victims’ relatives asked for help finding closure.

The legislation would shift funds currently used to prosecute death-penalty cases to deal with the growing backlog of more than 1,400 unsolved homicides that have stymied local investigators since 1970.

House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, a Democrat from Louisville, said the state should be spending money solving those cases instead of defending the only two inmates currently on death row and a half-dozen other cases that are pending.

Weissmann said the last death penalty case tried in Colorado ” against Jose Luis Rubi-Nava, who was charged with dragging his girlfriend to death behind a truck ” cost $1.4 million to prosecute.

Rubi-Nava, 38, was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty.

Weissmann said it costs only about $70,000 to try a non-capital case.

Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, said suspects would have little incentive to enter into plea bargains without the threat of capital punishment.

The House approved the measure on a standing vote. It faces a third reading before moving to the Senate.

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