Colorado Republicans Celebrate China’s Quickie Executions

Execution in China.

Execution in China.

​Debate over the death penalty in Colorado continues this election year, as Republican work to make Gov. John Hickenlooper's granting of a temporary reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap a campaign issue. A recent interview leaked by a conservative news outlet, as one example, quotes Hickenlooper as considering a full commutation of Dunlap's sentence–along with the governor's growing belief that the death penalty in Colorado (as elsewhere) is no longer a just punishment.

Republicans, aware that this is a divisive issue and that polling shows risk for Hickenlooper's new position, have pounced on the death penalty as a way to divorce independent voters from an otherwise likable candidate. Depending on how you spin it, Hickenlooper's temporary reprieve to Dunlap while he deliberates the efficacy and morality of capital punishment can be portrayed as thoughtful statesmanship or bumbling indecision. Naturally in an election year, Republican opponents are 100% of the opinion that it's the latter.

Yesterday, the Republican news site Complete Colorado reprinted an op-ed from former GOP. Gov. Bill Owens, written in 1993 not long after the Chuck E. Cheese murders. GOP social media surrogates were quick to spread it around:

But when we actually started reading Owens' 1993 Rocky Mountain News guest column, which we had never heard of before yesterday, the "shivers down our spine" were likely for reasons other than GOP operative Kelly Maher's.

This fall I visited Xian, a city of 3 million in southern China. While there, my guide told me that recently he had seen a flatbed truck slowly moving through the crowded streets of Xian with two men tied to stakes in the back. A day later, he saw the same two men, slumped over, restrained by their ropes, executed by a firing squad.

The men had been convicted of a murder. Their three-day trial took place one month after the murders occurred, and the men were executed a week following, where their appeals were turned down. Total elapsed time from murder to execution was less than two months. The lesson the Chinese people have learned is that murder is a very serious crime and murderers are dealt with swiftly and surely.

I walked the streets and slums of Xian, Beijing, Guilin and Canton by myself, late at night, with no concern for my safety.  While I do not defend the policies of the communist rulers, I do believe there is a lesson that can be learned from even a country like China. [Pols emphasis]

In this 1993 column, former Gov. Owens praises China for its speedy executions, comparing their system favorably to "the likely course of events in the Chuck E. Cheese murders"–that is, the American system of due process for the accused and comprehensive appeal opportunities before a sentence like capital punishment is carried out. Even with those checks and balances, capital punishment in the U.S. remains fraught with cases of wrongful executions.

Back to the matter at hand: according to Amnesty International, the "overwhelming majority" of executions are carried out in China, Iran, Yemen, North Korea, and the United States. "China appeared to have executed more people than the rest of the world put together in 2013." It's possible we're just not reading the right magazines or something, but we believe this is the first time we have ever seen the Chinese criminal justice system cast in, you know, a positive light. Even in a 20 year old op-ed, this strikes us as a politically indefensible thing to say.

We confess we have never seen poll on how many Americans would welcome Chinese-style capital punishment. We suspect there would be a few, polling down there with the segment who think the moon landing was fake or that Michelle Obama is a man. But we think hope it would not be a majority.

Our purpose in bringing this up is not to wade into the debate over capital punishment in Colorado, although that debate will obviously play a role in the upcoming elections. The fact is, the death penalty issue does not break cleanly along partisan lines, as Rep. Rhonda Fields on the left–pro capital punishment, with two of her son's killers on Colorado's death row–and Catholic Rep. Kevin Priola on the right amply demonstrate.

The point is, praising China's ability to shoot people on the double quick may not have the desired effect.

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MooMooMoo0MooMooMoo0 says:

    Are you pro-life or pro-choice on the Death Penalty? China is very "pro-choice", it seems. 

  2. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Republicans praise China's executions and Putin's "management style."

    Not surprised…

    • Would you care to post a similar graph for public opinion of gay marriage? Or of interracial marriage? Or perhaps a contemporary poll of support for the American Revolution?

      I'd rather feel morally satisfied than popular.

      Besides, Republicans are on the wrong side of similar graphs on many other issues of the day. One graph on its own does not an election make.

    • Skaje says:

      Can't deny the movement happening.  Support hit a peak in the early 1990s, and has only been tumbling since then.  Other polls besides Gallup are also seeing this.  Could be a 50-50 issue by the end of the decade.

  3. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    Republicans are constitutional purists.

    Except when they're not.

  4. ModeratusModeratus says:

    Also, it's not about the death penalty. Hickenlooper isn't clear on the death penalty one way or the other. He's being vague for political reasons and he doesn't have the courage to see justice done.

    Nathan Dunlap could cost Hick the election. So don't try to distract people with China.

  5. flatiron says:

    Hick seems to have diarrhea of the mouth this year. Is he trying to lose?  He is burnishing the GOP line of " failure to lead." 

  6. Diogenesdemar says:

    I don't want to be within 500 miles of any gun-totin', opposing-view-hatin', silence-any-debatin', everything-is-either-white-or-black (including humans), I'm-very-clear-on-death-and-killin', my-bible-tells-me-so, ignorant, moran, nuckfut . . . 

    . . . please move your ass to China, huh, Simpleatus?

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      I'm a proud member of the minority opinion on Simpleatus' (well played, Dio) graph.

      The question for me is, (should he be re-elected) what would the Governor's position be if our next Democratically-controlled state legislature passes a death penalty repeal bill?  Signature? Veto?  We are a nation of laws and I can accept that carrying out the law may be an inevitability (ironically, it's guaranteed if pro-life BWB should get lucky).  That said, if Dunlap is executed I'd fight like hell to make sure he is the last one.  

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        Republicans are only "pro-life" before birth. After that first breath, humans are on their own. You also don't usually see evangelical Christian Republicans weighing in on the many social and technical complexities which surround the modern death penalty. But I'm not any kind of evangelical, so I will at least ask the questions.

        Is the death penalty inherently racist?

        The death penalty can't be viewed outside of its social context. That context is a heavily racialized justice system in which most incarcerated people are not white, as are most people on death row.

        Should DNA evidence breakthroughs mandate a halt to all scheduled executions?

        DNA evidence has exonerated at least 18 people who had been sentenced to death. Many of them were found to be innocent after execution. Where does a "pro-life" Christian come down on this?

        What about those unproven, unstandardized, lethal injection drugs?

        And lethal injection drugs, which are now the preferred method of execution, are a crapshoot – we don't know what's in them, states are hiding the actual death throes of executed inmates, which look like torture to any objective eye.

        So given that social and technical context, Hick's position of granting a temporary reprieve actually makes sense to me. And you won't see me saying many positive  things about John Hickenlooper's decisions.

        Then there are the religious and moral questions: Should someone who has shown a callous disregard for human life, such as a proven-beyond-a-doubt multiple murderer or child sex offender have the rest of his/her life to seek to make amends or peace with their higher power? I used to say "No". Like Rhonda Fields, I was of the opinion that for some proven murderers and multiple sex offenders, their lives were not worth prolonging. But given the contexts I've outlined above, I need to rethink that.

        Is redemption possible? If prison systems which incarcerate people for life do protect the safety of the public, should the public then get to weigh in on the state of the criminal's soul? Is that even appropriate to ask in a country which separates religion and government?


        • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

          I'd suggest our Governor 1) release those who are in prison for minor, non-violent possession of marijuana,  2) seal their records so they can begin rehabilitating their lives and ending the poverty spiral, 3) use the new-found space to house real criminals while saving the state (and unfortunately dinging the bottom line of Corrections Corporation of America) a boatload of money.

          I doubt either major party candidate in the Governors race will touch these ideas – at this point it's all about creating an illusion that one is "tough" while all of the real conversations we need to be having with the voters stay safely stored in Ft. Knox.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      D, seems like you are destined to be disappointed, just like your parents.

      • BlueCatBlueCat says:

        What D this would be a relevant reply to is a mystery. It's in Dio's box but has nothing to do with anything there. Nobody ever accused you of harboring much upstairs, piss ant.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        Oooooooo, an attack on my parents?!? . . . How very AC of you. 

        It might have been interesting to have a battle of minds with you here — if I had a spare 12 seconds today (and if you hadn't long ago disqualified yourself from any such contest).

  7. Diogenesdemar says:

    1993 was a long time ago, I bet that even Colorado's former Pious-Billy-Pilgrim-in-Chief has changed some of his admiration for those clear requirements to stone adulterers?!?

  8. DawnPatrol says:

    As we know, the GOTP WANTS to see people to die from lack of access to health care.

    Is this story really such a stretch given their innate and utter lack of humanity?

    Th GOTP basically wants anyone they don't like or agree with to disappear, whatever the means. Impeachment, voter suppression/disenfranchisement, death —  it matters not to them.

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