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Hickenlooper Hints At Clemency For Death Row Inmate If He Loses Re-election

Greg Campbell
Contributor

An interview that never aired is reverberating through the Colorado governor’s race.

If Gov. John Hickenlooper loses his re-election bid in November, he is considering granting a convicted murderer clemency in one of his final acts as governor.

Hickenlooper is most likely to take this action if he feels his opponent played “political football” with his decision to grant the inmage an indefinite stay of execution

“[I]f they did do that, and if somehow they won, there are obviously remedies that the governor can do,” he said during an interview with CNN earlier this year, but which hasn’t yet aired.

“I could give it a full clemency between Election Day” and when a new governor is sworn in, he said.

The audio of the conversation was obtained from Hickenlooper’s office through an open records request by the website Complete Colorado. It was reported on Saturday by the Craig Silverman radio show in Denver. It has been a subject of contoversy since.

The interview was conducted before Republicans nominated a candidate to challenge him as governor. Hickenlooper is asked to respond to criticism that his stay of execution in the case of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap was a display of weak leadership.

Hickenlooper had come under fire for not taking a definitive stance in the case. The indefinite stay neither granted nor denied clemency, but laid the ultimate decision about Dunlap’s fate at the feet of a future governor.

Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger who won the primary, has been clear about what he intends to do if he wins the election.

“When I’m governor, Nathan Dunlap will be executed,” he said during a GOP debate in May, according to the Denver Post.

Whether that constitutes a “political football” in Hickenlooper’s estimation remains to be seen, but he told CNN that he wouldn’t let the race for governor turn into a “lynch mob” (in the producer’s words) over Dunlap’s life.

“[W]e won’t let that happen,” Hickenlooper said.

”[I]f that becomes a political issue,” he continued. “In that context within a campaign, obviously there’s a period of time between the election and the end of the year where individuals can make decisions, such as a governor can.”

“[T]he issue that a political campaign would make a human life, into, you know, a political football, is unacceptable.”

George Brauchler, the district attorney whose office prosecuted Dunlap, called the disclosure “explosive” on a radio talk show Saturday morning.

“What he’s not telling Colorado, but he’s telling CNN, is ‘don’t worry, I’ve already granted clemency,’ because either I’m going to get re-elected and he’s not going to die or I’m going to lose and he’s not going to die,” Brauchler said.

Brauchler also said it is Hickenlooper, not his opponents, who has injected the question of Dunlap’s execution into the campaign.

“He has made Nathan Dunlap’s life in this case a political issue,” he said. “And now throws down the declaration to CNN, ‘if someone beats me or someone is going to use this to defeat me, I will make sure that the greatest mass murderer in the history of Colorado — convicted — stays alive.’ I’m outraged.”

Hickenlooper recently told a reporter from Denver’s Fox 31 that he is now against the death penalty; during his previous campaign for governor, he said he supported it.

Dunlap shot and killed four employees of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993. He was also convicted of attempting to murder a fifth. He had been scheduled for execution in August 2013.

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