While Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett is considering the
death penalty for the man charged in the shooting death on University
Hill last week, it seems unlikely he will pursue that sentence, judging from his past comments against capital punishment.
On Wednesday, the Boulder County District Attorney's Office charged 22-year-old Longmont resident Kevin McGregor with first-degree murder in the March 18 shooting death of 20-year-old Todd Walker. The charge is one of two under state law that can lead to the death penalty (the other is treason, according to Garnett), and state statutes require the DA to consider a variety of factors when weighing whether to pursue an execution.
But Garnett has gone on record in the past opposing the death penalty as it is enforced in the United States.
"I have a lot of practical objections to the death penalty," Garnett told Boulder Weekly in 2009. "It's the law of Colorado, and as long as it's the law of Colorado, I will evaluate any first-degree murder case and consider it.
"On a cost-benefit analysis, it doesn't make sense. It is far more costly to the legal system than the benefits it provides. If the legislature brought forth a bill to eliminate the death penalty, I would probably support it.
"My view is, if the death penalty's eliminated, it would be fine with me, but it wouldn't affect public safety, which is what the DA's office is concerned with. Having the death penalty available has no effect on the justice system in Boulder County."
Garnett said in an interview today that his policy stance against the death penalty has not changed, and he plans to announce his decision on whether to pursue that sentence soon. But first, he wants to meet with the victims' families.
"I kind of have two different roles," he told Boulder Weekly. "One is to make sure I apply the law appropriately in any individual case, and the other is to talk more broadly about policy issues involving something like the death penalty.
"My policy view of what's wrong with the death penalty has not changed," Garnett says. "If anything, it's more intense. But I don't really want to talk about it until I finish processing the issues involved in the McGregor case, because I don't want to mix the two.
"Out of respect for what happened in this case, I want to make sure I have an opportunity to really sit down and discuss the situation with the folks affected by what happened here. But at that point, I'd be happy to talk more broadly about the problems I see with the death penalty."