DENVER — A Colorado judge can schedule the state's first execution in 15 years after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from an inmate who killed four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993.
court's rejection ends Nathan Dunlap's guaranteed appeals and sends the
case back to Colorado's 18th Judicial District, where a judge will set a
timeframe for execution, said Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for the state
Attorney General's office.
Dunlap was a 19-year-old former
employee of the restaurant when he killed the night manager of the
restaurant and three teenage employees. They all died from shots to the
Another employee was wounded but survived and identified Dunlap as the killer. A jury convicted Dunlap in 1996.
Supreme Court's decision comes as Democrats control the state
Legislature and are considering introducing a bill to abolish the death
Dunlap, 38, is one of three men on Colorado's death row.
state's last execution was in 1997 when Gary Lee Davis was put to death
for his conviction in a 1986 slaying. Before that, Colorado had gone 30
years since its last execution, in part because of a 1972 U.S. Supreme
Court decision that led to a moratorium on the death penalty.
reinstated the death penalty in 1984. But in 2003, three inmates had
their death sentences commuted to life in prison without parole after
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries, not judges, should impose
Dunlap's death sentence was handed up
by a jury, which convicted him of eight counts of first-degree murder,
attempted murder, robbery, theft and burglary.
Attorney General's office had opposed his appeal to the Supreme Court.
His attorneys can file a motion to delay the process in Colorado and can
also file a clemency application to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper,
asking that Dunlap's life be spared and instead that he be sentenced to
life in prison, Tyler said.
Phil Cherner, Dunlap's
appellate attorney since 1998, said in a statement that Dunlap should
spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.