This statute is an improvement relative to the status quo, although it is still quite harsh in cases of intermediate culpability.
Colorado has loosened the sentencing standard for people convicted of being present for but not actually responsible for a killing, bringing it down from an automatic sentence of life without parole to a sentence of between 16 and 48 years in prison.Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed into law SB21-124, a bill that he said ensures the “punishment fits the crime.”“The person who did the murder should do the most time,” Polis said. “If you’re standing there, you are guilty. This keeps that. … (But) you’re not in jail as long as someone who pulled the trigger, or stabbed a person.”This new law doesn’t apply to past cases and won’t take effect in courts until Sept. 15.
Via the Denver Post.
A safety valve provision for individuals with particularly little culpability, and an exclusion for deaths of co-conspirators, had already been part of the prior law.
18-3-103. Murder in the second degree - definitions. (1) A person commits the crime of murder in the second degree if:
(a) The person knowingly causes the death of a person; OR
(b) ACTING EITHER ALONE OR WITH ONE OR MORE PERSONS, HE OR SHE COMMITS OR ATTEMPTS TO COMMIT FELONY ARSON, ROBBERY, BURGLARY, KIDNAPPING, SEXUAL ASSAULT AS PROHIBITED BY SECTION 18-3-402, SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE FIRST OR SECOND DEGREE AS PROHIBITED BY SECTION 18-3-402 OR 18-3-403 AS THOSE SECTIONS EXISTED PRIOR TO JULY 1, 2000, OR A CLASS 3 FELONY FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT ON A CHILD AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 18-3-405 (2), OR THE FELONY CRIME OF ESCAPE AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 18-8-208, AND, IN THE COURSE OF OR IN FURTHERANCE OF THE CRIME THAT HE OR SHE IS COMMITTING OR ATTEMPTING TO COMMIT, OR OF IMMEDIATE FLIGHT THEREFROM, THE DEATH OF A PERSON, OTHER THAN ONE OF THE PARTICIPANTS, IS CAUSED BY ANY PARTICIPANT.
(1.5) IT IS AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO A CHARGE OF VIOLATING SUBSECTION (1)(b) OF THIS SECTION THAT THE DEFENDANT:
(a) WAS NOT THE ONLY PARTICIPANT IN THE UNDERLYING CRIME; AND
(b) DID NOT COMMIT THE HOMICIDAL ACT OR IN ANY WAY SOLICIT, REQUEST, COMMAND, IMPORTUNE, CAUSE, OR AID THE COMMISSION THEREOF; AND
(c) WAS NOT ARMED WITH A DEADLY WEAPON; AND
(d) DID NOT ENGAGE HIMSELF OR HERSELF IN OR INTEND TO ENGAGE IN AND HAD NO REASONABLE GROUND TO BELIEVE THAT ANY OTHER PARTICIPANT INTENDED TO ENGAGE IN CONDUCT LIKELY TO RESULT IN DEATH OR SERIOUS BODILY INJURY.
The residual First Degree Murder statute now reads as follows:
Colorado Murder -In The First Degree (18-3-102)A person commits the crime of murder in the first degree if:(a) After deliberation and with the intent to cause the death of a person other than himself, he causes the death of that person or of another person; or(c) By perjury or subornation of perjury he procures the conviction and execution of any innocent person; or(d) Under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally, he knowingly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to a person, or persons, other than himself, and thereby causes the death of another; or(e) He or she commits unlawful distribution, dispensation, or sale of a controlled substance to a person under the age of eighteen years on school grounds as provided in section 18-18-407 (2), and the death of such person is caused by the use of such controlled substance; or(f) The person knowingly causes the death of a child who has not yet attained twelve years of age and the person committing the offense is one in a position of trust with respect to the victim.
As I read the statute, it also means that a triggerman in a murder committed during a felony does not automatically receive life in prison without parole, and will often qualify for a second degree murder charge, which is more lenient than the act has been described in the popular press as being, and could often secure a second degree murder charge.
Colorado has also abolished the death penalty for first degree murder under prior law.