Colorado Lawmakers Propose Constitutional Amendment to Hold First-Degree Murder Defendants Without Bail

Colorado lawmakers are seeking to amend the state constitution to allow first-degree murder defendants to be held in jail without bail. This proposal comes in response to a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court in June 2020, which granted all criminal defendants, including those charged with first-degree murder, the opportunity to pay bail and remain free during their pending criminal cases.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which will be presented to Colorado voters in the November election, aims to enable judges to hold first-degree murder defendants without bail if there is substantial evidence against them. The amendment seeks to address concerns raised by lawmakers regarding the high bail amounts set for these defendants, which some argue create socio-economic disparities and favor the wealthy.

Prior to the abolition of the death penalty in Colorado last year, first-degree murder defendants could be held without bail as the crime was considered a capital offense. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling changed this, granting defendants charged since then the right to bail. This decision led to judges setting bail amounts as high as $100 million for some first-degree murder cases.

During a legislative hearing, 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason expressed his belief that Colorado voters do not want individuals charged with first-degree murder to be released pending trial. Four elected district attorneys testified in favor of the constitutional change, highlighting concerns raised by families of murder victims who feel unsafe when suspects can be released on bail.

Opponents of the proposed amendment argue that restricting someone’s constitutional right to bail should not be done without urgent need. State Rep. Lorena Garcia, an Adams County Democrat, voted against the amendment, stating that she could not in good conscience limit someone’s entitlement to their constitutional rights.

The proposed constitutional amendment passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-2 vote. To be put to Colorado voters in the fall, it will require approval by a two-thirds vote of all lawmakers.

In addition to the constitutional amendment, a bill is being considered to make legal adjustments to jury selection in first-degree murder cases, which would be necessary if the constitutional change is approved by voters.

Author: CrimeDoor

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