August 17, 2015
In June, four Colorado legislators got face-to-face with death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, the Chuck E. Cheese killer whose execution was postponed last October by Gov. John Hickenlooper to the dismay of many pro-death-penalty Coloradans.
Like they do most summers, these members of the Capital Development Committee were touring state colleges, universities and other facilities to find out how taxpayers’ dollars are being spent and to consider future funding requests.
The June 8-10 tour took the committee to northeastern Colorado, to tour the Sterling Correctional Facility, which houses the state’s three death row inmates.
Legislators on the Sterling visit were Reps. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland and J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio; and Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.
According to the legislators, the accidental encounter was uneventful and Dunlap was “very polite.”
Baumgardner said Dunlap came out of an elevator with a guard and had to walk through the group of mostly pro-death-penalty lawmakers because the space was so tight.
The inmate was held by the arm by the guard and was in full chains and shackles, according to Vigil.
“We were surprised,” Baumgardner said, and he believed Dunlap was as well.
Vigil described the situation as “surreal. It took me a second to recognize him,” he said.
“It’s a pretty nice facility,” Baumgardner said of the prison. There are things that need to be looked at, but that’s true for all of the state’s prisons, he added.
As to how meeting Dunlap impacted their opinions about the death penalty, the encounter didn’t change any minds, according to the legislators.