Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday commuted the life sentences of six men convicted of first-degree murder as young men or teens, marking the most significant action he has taken with his clemency authority in more than five years when he indefinitely halted the execution of convicted killed Nathan Dunlap.
From the Colorado Sun.The term-limited Democrat granted parole eligibility to the six, who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. That includes one — Curtis A. Brooks — who was a juvenile at the time he was sent to prison. Brooks will be released in July 2019 and ordered to serve five years of parole.Brooks was 15 and with a group of other boys when one of them fatally shot 24-year-old Christopher Ramos during a robbery in Aurora in 1995. Brooks did not pull the trigger, but was convicted of felony murder — a Colorado law that gives legal responsibility for a killing to those present when a murder occurs if they participated in the events leading up to it.
The felony murder statute under which Curtis Brooks received his life sentence has been bad policy since the very first felony murder statute of that kind was pass. Imposing vicarious liability for first degree murder on someone who was not proven to have killed or to have had an intent to kill, despite having conspired to commit a serious felony, is simply disproportionate and inappropriate in every case. It is one of the more frequent causes of serious injustice in the criminal justice system and it is good to see that Governor Hickenlooper intervened with the pardon power in this particularly egregious case of injustice.