tv Death Row Stories CNN July 10, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
injustice. >> i don't know what the outcome of this is going to be but this is a good case. >> i knew we were right. i think it is a good system. i want him dead. >> you didn't take the time to think their life was -- >> important to somebody else. i didn't have no association with them. to me their life wasn't nothing. >> in 1993, nathan dunlap killed four people at a chuck e. cheese's restaurant just outside of denver, colorado. he was sentenced to death. >> he is remorseless, as he talks about his murderous decision-making. >> does it bother you that they're dead, nathan? >> no. >> he killed four people. he needs to pay for it with his life. >> colorado had not executed
anyone since the late 1960s, but support for dunlap's death sentence was overwhelming. >> the death penalty. no doubt in my mind. >> mr. dunlap should be allowed to come out of the penitentiary only in a pine box. >> he took lives that he was not entitled to take. not for self-defense. not for self-preservation. nothing. this man is a mass murderer. and he deserves death. >> for 20 years as dunlap appealed his death sentence, violence continued to strike colorado. >> masked gunman walked into columbine high school. >> shooting at century theaters. they're saying somebody is shooting in the auditorium. >> and cries for vengeance increased. >> too many criminals. time all of them die. kill all of them, colorado. that will take care of all this crap. >> in 2013, nathan dunlap's execution ordered landed on the desk of governor john hickenlooper and in an odd twist of fate, the governor's own
political fortunes would come to rest on his decision. >> we're going to have an election in 2014 where one of the questions is, do we want to kill this one person? >> the case sparked a raging debate over capital punishment and posed the question, what should be done with society's most heinous criminals? >> the death penalty encompasses the most highly emotional issues for all of us. it's life and death. it's justice. all that stuff comes back together on trying to decide what we do with the worst of the worst. >> kill them all. [ bleep ]. >> there was a body under the water. >> butchered and murdered. >> many people proclaim innocence. >> in this case, there are a number of things that stink. >> this man is remorseless. >> needs to pay for it with his life. >> the electric chair flashed in front of my eyes. >> get a conviction at all costs that the truth fall where it may.
♪ >> in aurora, colorado, the night of december 14th, 1993, evil was about to strike in the most unlikely of places. >> it was chuck e. cheese. it was a family place. you go there to play games. you go there to play with your kids. >> 20-year-old bobby stephens, father to a newborn baby boy, was working a double shift in the pizza restaurant's kitchen. >> i picked up the chuck e. cheese job as a second job to help with the income and, you know, help with christmas that was coming. i'd only been there for two weeks, but it was business as normal. >> also working that night were 19-year-old sylvia crowell, a student at nearby metro state college. ben grant, a 17-year-old high
school wrestler. and colleen o'connor, also 17, a senior at eagle crest high school. marge kohlberg, 50, and a mother of 2 was working her first night alone as manager. out in the dining room sat 19-year-old former employee, nathan dunlap. >> nathan dunlap worked there for a time but is ultimately let go. he had an attitude problem and is a bit of a discipline issue for the management. so on the particular night in question, nathan dunlap goes into that chuck e. cheese and he orders dinner. dunlap plays video games. played a shooter video game, hogan's alley. chuck e. cheese closes. dunlap goes into the bathroom. waits in the bathroom. >> he goes to the mirror. he gets himself psyched up. looks at himself and tells himself he can do this. and he pulls out his gun and he
walks outside and he starts to shoot people in the head. >> bobby stephens was walking inside after a smoking break. >> as i went back into work is when i started hearing the gunshots. i thought somebody dropped something. >> sylvia crowell who had been cleaning the salad bar was the first person shot. she never saw dunlap coming. ben grant, vacuuming, was killed next. >> heard the next two shots. the only thing that came to my mind was the kids are out there popping the balloons. >> colleen o'connor saw dunlap approaching. she sank to her knees, clasped her hands together and pleaded for her life, but dunlap fired a bullet through the top of her head. >> i was loading some utensils into the dishwasher. i turned around and nathan dunlap came through the kitchen door. right then is when i knew i was in trouble.
to be honest with you, the only words that could come out of my mouth was oh [ bleep ], and he raised the gun and he shot at me. >> the bullet hit bobby in the jaw. he fell to the floor. >> as he stood there, i was actually expecting for me to be shot again and that would be the end of it, but i played dead. i held as still as i possibly could be and it actually worked. he walked on and i got up and i ran out the kitchen. >> dunlap entered the office where he forced marge kohlberg to unlock the safe. after it was open, he shot marge in the ear. >> as he is gathering the cash, he notices marge is still moving. >> bobby stephens, covered with blood, stumbled through the dining room and fled through a side door in search for help. >> all i saw was a patio light. i stumbled along the way, but i
read to that light as fast as i could. >> emergency, 911. >> listen, i have a man who's been shot in my house right here. he comes from chuck e. cheese. he explains there's been a lot of people shot there. >> we have a call in for chuck e. cheese. we have paramedics and officer en route. >> i need someone to help me search the place. we have several people down. >> of course, media picked up on it very quickly. parents are responding. people are calling each other. the parking lot is a zoo. >> everyone, whole community, was just, a shooting at chuck e. cheese? >> no, no. >> the normally festive pizza shop was transformed into a scene of carnage and chaos. >> my best friends are in there. they won't even say anything and it drives us crazy. >> police say it's the worst crime in aurora in years. >> we always had the news on. always. for some reason that night, we didn't.
the phone rings. and it's my sister. she said, jody, there's something on the news about chuck e. cheese. is that the chuck e. cheese restaurant that colleen works at? so we went down there and they told us to go into tony roma's. went into tony roma's and colleen was not there and i started shaking. i started shaking. >> a friend of mine called. he was on the police force. and he said, there's been a shooting down at chuck e. cheese. and he said, well, you better come down here right away. >> the police officer came up and said, your daughter has been air lifted to denver general. >> we were told that she was taken to a hospital, so i went and saw that she was breathing, but that was about it. the doctors said that she didn't have a chance.
>> the doctors said, she's brain dead. i didn't know what brain dead meant. so i looked at the minister that was there. i said, is her soul in or out? you know what i'm saying? and he said, she's with god now. >> outside chuck e. cheese's, police canvas the crowd for leads. >> my partner says, you're not going to believe this, we just talked to a guy outside who's telling us who did this. he said his name is nathan dunlap and he's an ex-employee here and he'd been bragging to people he was going to come back and kill the manager. so we had the name right off the bat. >> police had a suspect, but now they had to find him. and once they did, the story would become more complicated than they ever could have imagined.
how's it progressing with the prisoner? he'll tell us everything he knows very shortly, sir. as you were... where were we? 13 serving 14! service! if your boss stops by, you act like you're working. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. when you do business everywhere, the challenges of keeping everyone working together can quickly become the only thing you think about. that's where at&t can help. at&t has the tools and the network you need, to make working as one easier than ever. virtually anywhere. leaving you free to focus on what matters most. choose,
choose, choose. but at bedtime? ...why settle for this? enter sleep number, don't miss the final days of the lowest prices of the season. sleepiq technology tells you how well you slept and what adjustments you can make. you like the bed soft. he's more hardcore. so your sleep goes from good to great to wow! only at a sleep number store. don't miss the final days of the lowest prices of the season. save $300 to $700 on selected mattress sets. ends sunday! know better sleep with sleep number.
peoplethey don't have one. check their credit score, but they do. your score still needs someone to take care of it. it needs your help. for the low price of completely free forever, you can get your credit score from credit karma.com. credit karma will give you your score for free and show you what you can do to nurture it. love your score. take care of it for free at credit karma.com.
as police in aurora, colorado, began investigating the brutal murders at chuck e. cheese's, they immediately focused on the suspect, disgruntled ex-employee nathan dunlap. dunlap had apparently been very open about his plans. >> sometime in december, he begins to tell his compatriots, his friends, that he intends to rob chuck e. cheese and he's going to kill everybody in there. >> following the shooting, concerned parents rush to the scene. among the crowd was nathan dunlap's mother, carol. >> we started talking with her, and her views at that point was that he didn't do this, but if you think he did, let's get this taken care of. >> she called him, and she told him, you need to come home and talk with the police right now. >> they ended up finding him at his girlfriend's house. he was having sex with her, and when he got the call to come back to this house, which was his mother's home, he got in the
shower. >> after scrubbing away any physical evidence, nathan was picked up by police and questioned. >> left my house around 9:10, 9:20. >> in the evening? >> yes, in the evening. >> nathan told them, i went to chuck e. cheese. i was hungry. >> i went in. ordered a sandwich. >> nathan said he learned about the massacre from the news. >> they thought for sure he's part of this, but what do we have to hold him? nothing. >> shooting survivor bobby stephens was unconscious in the hospital and unable to help police, but once they interrogated nathan's girlfriend, tracy, things changed. tracy admitted nathan had arrived at her house with bundles of cash and a gun. asking her to help dispose of the evidence. that afternoon, police took nathan into custody. over the next few weeks, investigators learned that
before going to tracy's house, nathan visited two other friends and bragged about killing people. execution style at chuck e. cheese's. >> he told them what he did. he showed them the evidence of it. he showed them money. he showed them trinkets they picked up. the other people were charged as accessories. >> december 23rd, 1993, police charged nathan dunlap with four counts of first-degree murder. prosecutors would now need to decide what punishment to seek. life in prison, or the death penalty. for local residents, the murders at chuck e. cheese's crossed a clear red line. enough was enough. >> i became the district attorney of denver in june of 1993, and it was at the beginning of what later became termed the summer of violence. because of the amount of pretty high-profile crimes and it was on the 10:00 news almost every night.
>> an epidemic of violence is sweeping american children out of homes and classrooms and onto our meanest streets. >> cops say they've never seen anything like it. >> our quality of life is being threatened when our children can't play in the street. >> i mean, there were children that were just random victims because one gang member shot at another. >> our babies, our babies. just leave them babies alone. >> i tell you, the public was frightened. >> amplifying nationwide fears, the media seized upon a label for a new class of ultraviolent offenders. >> criminologists call them super-predators. >> super-predator. >> the super-predator was about juvenile kids who had access to gun and didn't seem to have developed a conscience over time. >> police departments in our cities warn of a new generation of, quote, super-predators who have no compunction about taking human life. >> the narrative became about violence, gang violence, juvenile violence and having nathan dunlap kill four people at a chuck e. cheese just fed
right into all of that. >> for many, nathan was the definition of a super-predator and deserved nothing less than death. >> he had escalating violence throughout his teenage years. he started robbing places with a golf club, and that escalated to guns eventually. >> we learned that nathan dunlap had been involved in some very serious crimes. >> prosecutors first tried nathan for one of the robberies and convicted him. with a violent crime now on nathan's record, the d.a.'s office announced they would aggressively pursue the death penalty. >> the dunlap case arose in arapaho county, part of the 18th judicial district which is in colorado, is now and has been in the past in love with the death penalty. >> the verdict seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
>> the trial then essentially becomes about whether what nathan dunlap did is deserving of the death penalty. >> in fact, before trial, nathan's defense team made an offer to the state. nathan would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. >> it comes down to what's the appropriate sentence that he's receiving? is this appropriate to plead this to a life in prison? and it was not. >> at trial, nathan's lawyers called almost no witnesses and offered little defense for his actions. it took the jury only 3 1/2 hours to only to a verdict. >> we, the jury, find the defendant, nathan dunlap, guilty of murder in the first degree. >> and during sentencing, the jury delivered a clear message. giving nathan four death sentences. one for each victim.
>> it has to be all 12 jurors saying i personally agree with the death sentence. if one person says no, then it's a life sentence. >> though he'd been impassive during trial, at the hearing where the judge officially imposed the death sentence, nathan responded directly to remarks by the victims' family members. >> man, i don't give a [ bleep ] about you, your mama, your whole [ bleep ]. you know what i'm saying? >> nathan lost it. he blew up. he was screaming. >> i don't take none of your [ bleep ]. >> i think people in the courtroom got to see nathan dunlap as nathan dunlap. >> i don't even give a [ bleep ]. you know what i'm saying? >> how angered he could be. how vicious he could be. when you saw him and you saw the look on his face, he was a different person. >> [ bleep ]. i'm sorry, adinea. i'm sorry. >> in the years to come,
disturbing details would emerge about nathan dunlap, details that would help explain his actions, and also weigh heavily in the governor's decision whether or not to put nathan to death. watch as these magnificent creatures take flight, soaring away from home, towards the promise of a better existence. but these birds are suffering. because this better place turned out to have an unreliable cell phone network, and the videos on their little bird phones kept buffering. birds hate that. so they came back home. because they get $300 for switching back to verizon. and so can you! verizon, come home to the best network.
while you're watching this, i'm hacking your company. grabbing your data. stealing your customers' secrets. there's an army of us. relentlessly unpicking your patchwork of security. think you'll spot us? ♪ you haven't so far. the next wave of the internet requires the next wave of security. we're ready. are you? pwho thrives on the unexpected. andha-ha! box shall we dine? [ chuckle ] you wouldn't expect an insurance company to show you their rates and their competitors' rates, but that's precisely what we do. going up! nope, coming down. and if you switch to progressive today, you could save an average of over 500 bucks. stop it. so call me today at the number below. or is it above? dismount! oh, and he sticks the landing!
>> during the run-up to trial, nathan's behavior became erratic, including violent mood swings, signs of depression, and even incidents of spreading feces over his cell and on himself. nathan's sister, adinea, arranged to visit him in jail. >> when i first saw him was when i began to think, okay, something is not right. his eyes were glassy and his hair was everywhere. and he was rambling. and i was trying to get him to calm down. >> nathan was put on suicide watch and moved to a padded cell. >> his eyes reminded me of seeing my mother when she was in a manic episode. so when i saw him, i saw her eyes. >> throughout their childhood, adinea and nathan's mother,
cara, suffered from bipolar disorder. a serious mental illness that caused extreme mood shifts and unpredictable behavior. >> nathan dunlap's mother would at times berate the children, wake them up in the middle of the night, walk around the home naked. >> during carol's manic episodes, she might experience hypersexual behavior, in addition to severely abusing her children. >> as child when you see that, it was very confusing. >> carol, whose father and brother were also bipolar, was in and out of institutions. >> my mom would go to the hospital. we didn't understand what was going on, so my dad would take care of us. the abuse and intimidation from my dad started very early with nathan. by grabbing him on the collar, picking him up. it wasn't anything for him to hit him and knock him. >> nathan wasn't the only target of jerry dunlap's rage.
>> my dad did sexually abuse me probably from the time i was about 9 until 14. and there was a time where nathan came downstairs when some of this was going on, and my dad thought that he saw it. and i think after that, abuse was really bad. i mean, it was just -- it was horrible. >> due to the severity of his crime and signs of mental instability, before trial, nathan was sent for testing. >> he was brought down to pueblo for a psychological evaluation about whether he was legally insane. >> numerous psychiatrists at the colorado mental health institute observed nathan, trying to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. >> we're identifying that what he's looking like is similar to what we've experienced with my
mother, her brother, and her father. >> they spent time observing him very closely and sent him back with a report that didn't just say nathan dunlap was competent to stand trial, but said that he was a malingerer. a faker. that he tended to enhance or invent symptomology consistent with what he wanted to be true. >> but state psychiatrists never have full access to nathan's medical records or family history, and the defense believed the evaluation was biased. >> there's an entire argument over whether he actually does have mental health problems, or whether he's faking in an effort to make an insanity plea or avoid the death penalty. >> during trial, nathan's attorneys never mentioned his psychiatric evaluations or the idea that he may have been suffering from a mental break during the massacre. >> the defense is afraid that if
those charges of malingering came out, it would actually inflame the jury even further against nathan dunlap. so it's never a factor in the ultimate death penalty verdict. >> right around this time, toward the late '90s, colorado executed its first prisoner in about three decades. >> colorado department of corrections inmate gary davis was pronounced dead at 8:33 this evening. >> gary lee davis' execution sent nathan into a tailspin. >> the guards were really taunting him that he was next, and that day he had a manic break. he really just started ranting and raving and had to be hospitalized shortly thereafter. >> nathan's ongoing psychiatric struggles brought about a major shift in his appeal strategy. now with a new team of lawyers,
the legal arguments would be based squarely on nathan's mental health. >> they proceeded to file over a period of years his motion for post-conviction relief, alleging that the trial attorney was ineffective, and so, therefore, he didn't receive a fair trial. >> if granted post-conviction relief, nathan's sentence could be converted to life in prison. and his appeals would bring up a critical question that have long surrounded the death penalty. how mentally ill does a convict need to be to avoid being executed? >> there's just no competent, credible doctors that will tell you that his evil conduct was the product of being in a manic state. that his conduct was somehow altered by being bipolar or suffering from any other mental illness. >> the idea that nathan could escape death due to mental illness enraged the victims' families and the sole survivor. >> in my head, he had to be crazy. i mean, how else would a sane person walk into a child
pizzeria and shoot five people? he selfishly took the lives of four other people, and i'm a strong believer in an eye for an eye. >> the fact that the death penalty was ordered, that was right. that was the thing to do. as far as life in prison, nathan dunlap doesn't deserve that. he deserves to die.
where you also find her. ♪ a romantic fumble at this romantic chateau ... leads to these fine humans. who you take to this eco-lodge ... to get seriously close to nature. then you check in with her at this tropical paradise. before soaring over this castle resort with your father-in-law. who finally seems to like you. life can be like that when you get it booking right. booking.com booking.yeah! verizon say neversettle. t-mobile agrees. never settle for verizon's overpriced gimmicks. try the un-carrier risk-free for 14 days you'll love it, or we'll pay for you to go back.
[sfx: bell] [burke] the more you learn about the more gaps you may find. [burke] like how you may be covered for this... [burke] but not for something like this... [burke] talk to farmers and see what gaps could be hiding in your coverage. [sfx: yeti noise] ♪ we are farmers bum - pa - dum, bum - bum - bum - bum ♪
in june 2005, 12 years after the chuck e. cheese massacre, another crime occurred in aurora that would have a profound effect on the nathan dunlap case and the death penalty in colorado. javad marshall-fields and his fiancee, vivian wolfe, were on their way out to dinner. >> javad had a brilliant smile. vivian just loved life. they were both recent graduates from colorado state university. she had just graduated with a b.a. in nutrition, and my son had just graduated with a bachelor's degree in speech communication and rhetoric. >> just three miles from where
the chuck e. cheese's massacre had taken place, javad and vivian were stopped at a red light when a car pulled alongside and someone opened fire. >> gunmen attacked this car with bullets, killing javad marshall-fields and vivian wolfe. >> finding out that i had lost my son, it was the most devastating event that i have ever experienced in my life. i was very, very angry. i was very upset. and so i went straight to the police department and started asking questions. >> javad had witnessed a friend's murder at a barbecue the summer before, and despite receiving death threats, javad had decided to testify in court against the accused killer. >> he felt like it was the right thing to do because he saw his best friend get shot down in cold blood. >> javad was murdered five days before the trial was set to begin. >> months later, sir mario owens and robert ray, who'd both been
implicated in the barbecue shooting, were indicted for javad and vivian's murders. >> this case becomes one of the biggest cases in colorado, and a prosecution in this case also in arapaho county, they seek the death penalty. >> i think it's pretty clear why we sought death in the cases of sir mario owens and robert ray. listen, they murdered a witness to a murder. it's not just its own killing. it's an attack on the entire criminal justice system. >> they had killed before. so the thought was, what do you give them? do you give them more time? more life on top of life? >> but the state's case against owens and ray was largely circumstantial, and getting death wasn't guaranteed. so rhonda fields took an active role pushing for the ultimate punishment. >> i was not a supporter of the death penalty prior to the death of my son, but now i believe that there's some crimes that are so heinous that they deserve
the highest punishment that the state has to offer. >> i've seen mothers, people who were killed who have been taken apart by it and their lives ruined, but i've seen people who did it differently. >> i did not want another family member to have to experience the grief and the pain that i did. and so i worked with my elected official at the time to pass legislation to strengthen the state's witness protection laws. i was able to pass two bills just as a citizen just working through my own elected official. and so from there, i was tapped to run for office, and i did. and i won. >> rhonda was elected to represent aurora in the state legislature. she won in a landslide. >> rhonda fields becomes a leader on two issues. one, for gun control. very, very, very pro-gun control. two, she's very pro-death penalty.
>> during the time rhonda was pushing for death for her son's killers, nathan dunlap continued to work on his appeals. >> this was not a chance to proof that he was innocent, to set dunlap free. the focus was on his mental health and any other mitigating factors that could have gone into a jury's decision about whether he should be put to death. >> nathan dunlap's attorneys make a pretty powerful case about bipolarity saying this was not properly explored. in the original case. >> by 2006, prison doctors had finally diagnosed nathan as bipolar and put him on the powerful drug, lithium. once medicated, nathan's behavior on death row changed radically, and he became a model prisoner. >> he was an entirely different person from the young man even that i knew.
so it certainly has to be a part of why he did what he did. >> as nathan's appeals were being reviewed by the courts, a movement to fully ban capital punishment in colorado was picking up speed. >> i think that america has hopelessly entangled two concepts. one is justice, and the other is vengeance. and we need to untangle those. >> with polls showing nationwide support for the death penalty dwindling, a bill was introduced in the colorado state legislature to outlaw executions. >> we just felt strongly that we needed to start this debate. we needed to put it out there. >> as passage of the bill looked more and more likely, it seemed possible that rhonda's son's killers and nathan dunlap might escape the ultimate punishment after all. if you have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. isn't it time to let the real you shine through?
introducing otezla, apremilast. otezla is not an injection, or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. some people who took otezla saw 75% clearer skin after 4 months. and otezla's prescribing information has no requirement for routine lab monitoring. don't take otezla if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. otezla may increase the risk of depression. tell your doctor if you have a history of depression or suicidal thoughts, or if these feelings develop. some people taking otezla reported weight loss. your doctor should monitor your weight and may stop treatment. side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, upper respiratory tract infection, and headache. tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, and if you're pregnant or planning to be. ask your doctor about otezla today. otezla. show more of you. when you're not confident you have complete visibility into your business,
it can quickly become the only thing you think about. that's where at&t can help. at&t's innovative solutions connect machines and people... to keep your internet of things in-sync, in real-time. leaving you free to focus on what matters most. checking your credit score is for chumps. i have great credit. how do you know? duh.
you know those change, right? tattoos don't change. try credit karma. it's free and you can see what your score is right now. aren't you a little bit curious? i just got my free credit score! credit karma. really free credit scores. really free. i have got to update my ink. esurwhich means fewer costs, which saves money. their customer experience is virtually paperless, which saves paper, which saves money. they have smart online tools, so you only pay for what's right for you, which saves money. they settle claims quickly, which saves time, which saves money. they drive an all-hybrid claims fleet, which saves gas, which saves money. they were born online, and built to save money, which means when they save, you save. because that's how it should work in the modern world. esurance. backed by allstate. click or call.
death penalty in colorado came from the fact that there is a budget crisis, and the death penalty is a huge money drain. there's one estimate that the nathan dunlap case has cost the state $18 million. >> it's absolutely more expensive to handle a death case because of the time it takes and the appeals going forth for 20 years. >> how can we better use resources to be more effective? >> in addition to its high cost, supporters of the bill argue that the death penalty was used inconsistently across the state. >> in some counties, the district attorneys go after a life without parole sentence. in some counties, they're known for going after the death penalty. so should your geography really determine your fate? >> there have been many multiple murders in colorado that have
not been prosecuted as capital cases, so the question is why? >> when you actually try to probe in what sense is this justice, there is no answer other than, you know, an eye for an eye. this person did this horrible, unspeakable thing and we are going to do something back to them. >> rhonda fields, who had continued to push for death sentences for her son's killers, spoke out against the bill. >> i did not want to see the death penalty be repealed in our state because i think it's a tool that our d.a.s need to have access to. there has to be some level of accountability and punishment for people who commit multiple murders. >> in the end, the death penalty ban passed in the house but fell short in the state senate by a single vote. >> if you look back over the last decade or so, i'd guess, about every two years the life or killers crowd convinces legislators for a bill to lower the bar for the sanctions for heinous murders, and those invariably fail, but i don't
think this is just what do i think is the appropriate law to have on the books regarding the death penalty? this is what the state of colorado thinks. >> by the time the bill failed, both of rhonda's son's killers, sir mario owens, and robert ray, had been sentenced to death. they joined the only other occupant on colorado's death row, nathan dunlap. critics of the death penalty noticed troubling similarities. >> owens, ray, and dunlap all went to the same high school. they all were young african-american men at the time that they were charged in their cases. and they were all charged in the same exact judicial district. why are these three singled out, and they're the only people on death row? >> race is extremely important, but it's not important as it relates to this concept of death penalty.
we happen to have three african-american men who are on death row for the same thing. cold-blooded murder. and in my view, it has nothing to do with race. it has everything to do about murder. >> over the next few years, rhonda fields would continue to be an important voice in favor of capital punishment. especially because the dunlap case was about to remerge in the headlines. after nearly 20 years of court proceedings, nathan's defense team was running out of options. in 2012, the tenth circuit court rejected his final appeal, and a year later, the supreme court refused to hear his case. district attorney, george brauchler, now in charge of the case took decisive action. >> we set an execution state for
august of 2013. now, dunlap's last effort to save his life is in asking the governor of the state of colorado for clemency. >> in 2010, governor john hickenlooper jr., the popular former mayor of denver, had won the governor's seat in commanding fashion. >> this clemency appeal arrives on john hickenlooper's desk as the last hope for nathan dunlap's life. >> with eyes across the nation watching colorado, governor hickenlooper would be forced to decide whether nathan dunlap should live or die. towards the promise of a better existence. but these birds are suffering. because this better place turned out to have an unreliable cell phone network, and the videos on their little bird phones kept buffering. birds hate that. so they came back home. because they get $300 for switching back to verizon.
and so can you! verizon, come home to the best network. i'm the biggest threat your business will ever face. your size, your reputation mean nothing. because tomorrow, i'll be your competitor. and i was born to disrupt everything you think your business is about. see you soon. the next wave of the internet is bringing the next wave of competition. we're ready. are you? how's it progressing with the prisoner? he'll tell us everything he knows very shortly, sir. as you were... where were we? 13 serving 14! service! if your boss stops by, you act like you're working. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more
in may 2013, nathan dunlap submitted a petition for clemency to governor john hickenlooper. it was accompanied by a video. >> i did what i did. i regret who i did to the victims' families. bipolar played a big role in what i was doing. >> nathan's petition requested that his sentence be commuted to life in prison because his mental health issues were never taken into account at trial. it also argued that the death penalty in colorado was infrequently used, arbitrarily sought. and racially biased.
district attorney office sent a counter argument to the governor. >> we addressed the mental health issues. they'd all been raised before in appellate court levels and now they were being raised yet again to ask the governor to act as the 13th jury, the super-juror. >> we also gave him a book of pictures from the crime scene and letters from victims' families. >> as part of his process, the governor met in person with the victims' families. >> most of the victims' families were there, and most of us were very adamant that he deserved the death penalty. >> i explained, you know, i've remained quiet for this long, i haven't said anything, but now it's time for me to speak up. i think nathan deserves to face his maker. >> but some in the room, including victim colleen o'connor's mother, felt differently.
>> our family was the family that was more against the death penalty than anybody else. what i said to the governor was, most of these years i haven't thought about nathan dunlap. what i've been doing is i've been trying to heal. and i said to him, governor, i wouldn't want to be in your shoes for anything, because i couldn't say yes. >> the governor has a lot of power here. to sign a death warrant or to commute a sentence. and so you're really presented with, i think, one of the more difficult things a human being can be presented with. is that final decision that comes down to just you. >> on may 22nd, 2013, governor hickenlooper called the families to inform them of his decision. he then stepped in front of the cameras. >> well, we decided to grant a temporary reprieve. the point of having a temporary
reprieve rather than clemency is really out of the respect to the rule of law. >> john hickenlooper ultimately decides to temporarily postpone the execution. temporarily, but indefinitely in the sense of as long as i'm governor, nathan dunlap will not be executed. >> a reprieve is the last thing anybody expected. it's kind of a yes or a no issue, and a reprieve just defers it. >> it's like a time-out. the last reported use of this reprieve power that we could find was in the mid 1890s. >> they found him guilty and sentenced him to death based on laws that were passed in colorado, by coloradans, and remain on the books to this day. >> reaction was swift, and vitriolic. >> i'm so furious. i can't tell you. >> john hickenlooper basically made a mockery out of the judicial system. >> i just felt like he's driving a tank over us.
>> this man, he's got to be a balless wonder. that's all i can think of him. >> i mean, we knew when we made this decision that we were making the hardest decision, right? that we'd be criticized from both sides. we try to hear all the voices and all the perspectives to try to get to justice. justice is really dispassionate. that's part of the governor's role when the governor comes in after this whole ark of judicial process and has to say, did we miss anything? is this really the right decision? there's no question that this was cold-blooded murder in the most evil sense. even to this day, i can remember listening in 1993 to the details of what happened in chuck e. cheese. and you feel a physical repulsion and a hatred. it's almost visceral, right? but that's not when you should make decisions and that's not necessarily where justice comes from. >> the governor acknowledges that dunlap's psychiatric
history played a role in his reprieve, but his executive order also calls into question whether the state should be putting people to death at all. >> death is different. right? it's final. and the finality of it is so powerful that i think it makes all of us look at it in a different sense. there's a reason why now 18 states have banned the death penalty. i was the entire state to have an examination around the issues of the death penalty, whether it is effective policy or whether it is broken and really doesn't function well. >> by making the reprieve temporary, the governor left over the possibility that the next election will decide nathan dunlap's fate, and the day after his announcement, one of the governor's biggest political opponents declared his candidacy. >> if i'm elected governor, let's see, 20 minutes after i actually enter the office and get a pen in my hand, i will rescind the order.
when the death penalty is subjected to an election, whether a gubernatorial, in this case nathan dunlap, or a ballot measure, we are saying essentially that the emotions of the mob should rule. >> certain things are simply not up for a popular vote, and i believe whether someone lives or dies should be one of those things. >> you know, it goes back to public stonings and lynchings, you know, we don't have mob justice. >> in early 2014, a poll showed that a majority of coloradans still supported the death penalty and disapproved of how the governor handled the dunlap case. >> we believe in upholding the law, and the law says execute him, and it's well deserved. >> the governor made it a political issue. i mean, there is one person in the state of colorado who is more interested in the governor
being re-elected than even the governor. that's nathan dunlap. >> despite running on a pro-death penalty platform in 2010, governor hickenlooper recently stated publicly for the first time he is now against the death penalty. meanwhile, bob bopray who won the republican gubernatorial nomination has said unequivocally that if elected, he will put dunlap to death. whether that will provide justice is still an open question. >> is executing someone 20 years later really the kind of retribution that is making us as a society a better society? >> i got a daughter murdered. i should be going, kill him, kill him, kill him. but you know how i feel? nathan rotting where he's rotting is actually worse than the death penalty. i think that he deserves to stay exactly in the hole that he's in and suffer and suffer and think about what he did.
about what he did. let him rot. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com on this episode of "death row stories" -- a terrifying crime. >> the victim was so innocent. >> a condemned man fights for his life. >> no matter how much i begged, no one listens to a convicted murderer. >> until a passionate priest helps dig for the truth. >> my heart just dropped into the pit of my stomach, and i'm thinking, what else is here? it's the biggest smoke-screen i've ever seen in my life. >> there's a body in the water. > he was butchered and murdered. >> many people proclaim their innocence. >> in this case there are a number of things that stink.