With the hornets nest of conservative and libertarian anger which Colorado Governor John "I'm a moderate" Hickenlooper stirred up by supporting a raft of anti-gun legislation in this once-red state, I thought there was little chance he would pardon or commute the sentence of Nathan Dunlap. Particularly since Hickenlooper made sure that a bill ending the death penalty in Colorado did not get a vote in the state legislature.
Today, with a "temporary reprieve," the governor may have just done the politically unthinkable: He has made it possible for a Republican to beat him in 2014.
Nathan Dunlap shot five people, killing four of them, in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora, Colorado in 1993. He later said that killing the people was "better than sex."
Hickenlooper says that the time since the conviction has given "the benefit of information that exposes an inequitable system." Whether or not the system is inequitable is not relevant. There is no question as to Dunlap's guilt. Zero, nada, zilch. He did it, and he was proud of it.
He deserves to die.
George Brauchler, the recently elected District Attorney of the judicial district where Dunlap was convicted, and where the mass-murderer James Holmes is soon to face trial, has argued that "justice demands the death of Nathan Dunlap." I couldn't agree more.
The parents of Dunlap's victims are rightfully furious.
Furthermore, if Dunlap doesn't deserve death, then what is the purpose of having a death penalty in Colorado?
How about also pardoning the other people on death row here, including one who murdered the son of Colorado State Representative Rhonda Fields?
As usual, Hickenlooper wants to have it both ways: By doing this by executive order, and as reprieve, it means a future governor could undo today's move and send Nathan Dunlap to his just reward unless Hickenlooper does something more permanent before leaving office.
My prediction: This will make many Coloradoans, not just Republicans, extremely angry. And it will cause several Republican gubernatorial hopefuls who had been on the sidelines because Hickenlooper had seemed extremely difficult to beat now put their hats in the ring. The number one campaign slogan for the eventual Republican nominee: "I promise that Nathan Dunlap will get what he deserves."
One thing which occurred to me when the anti-gun legislation was being shoved down the throats of unwilling Coloradoans was this: Hickenlooper is aiming to get a high-paying job working for Michael Bloomberg.
Today's events make me think I may not have been unduly conspiracy-minded after all.
John Hickenlooper just stabbed his state, and the justice system, in the back. Now it's time to hope that voters do the same to his political career in 18 months, and return this state to some sense of sanity.