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The history of the death penalty in Colorado

Colorado neighbor Nebraska executed its first prisoner since 1997 using a combination of four drugs never before used in a lethal injection, including fentanyl.
Credit: DanHenson1
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KUSA — Nebraska carried out its first execution since 1997 earlier this week with the lethal injection of Carey Dean Moore, who shot and killed two cab drivers.

The execution was significant before officials used the never-before-tried combination of four lethal injection drugs that included the opioid drug fentanyl.

There are currently three inmates on death row in Colorado. One of them, Nathan Dunlap, was spared execution by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said he would leave the ultimate decision up to whoever succeeds him in 2019.

RELATED | Nebraska executes first prison inmate since 1997

Dunlap murdered four people at a Chuck E. Cheese.

The two other inmates in Colorado's death row are co-defendants. Sir Mario Owens murder a witness and his fiancee. They were going to testify against Robert Ray, who is also on death row.

Michael Radelet is an expert when it comes to the death penalty. He's a sociology professor at the University of Colorado who has written seven books on the topic.

According to his research, there have been 103 executions in our state's history. The last one was in Cañon City in 1997. Radelet says in Colorado, the death penalty comes down to three things:

"In Colorado, there are three factors that drive the death penalty, one is politics, two is politics and three is politics, and with the expense of the death penalty, every time we seek the death penalty it costs upwards of $10 to $20 million," Radelet said.

Radelet says it's important to understand not only who gets the death penalty, but who doesn't and that cases vary by counties.

Two death penalty cases happened within the last couple of years. The Aurora theater shooter was up against a death sentence and so was Dexter Lewis, who stabbed five people in a Denver bar. Both crimes took place in 2012 and both were sentenced to life in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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