Colo. governor delays execution of convicted killer

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DENVER (AP) -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has indefinitely delayed the execution of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap, citing doubts about the death penalty.

Hickenlooper announced his decision Wednesday. He says he is granting Dunlap a reprieve, not clemency. Clemency would have changed Dunlap's sentence to life without parole.

Under a reprieve, Dunlap could conceivably be executed some day. The reprieve will stay in force until Hickenlooper or another governor lifted it.

Hickenlooper says Colorado's capital punishment system is flawed and the state doesn't have the drugs in place to carry out an execution by lethal injection.

“I have taken this responsibility seriously,” Hickenlooper says in an executive order. “As Governor, I must either direct state employees to execute a human being, or I must exercise my constitutional authority to top an execution. Both paths require an affirmative decision by me, and the prospect of either decision has been daunting. It has forced me to think of the issue in a personal way because it is on my conscience the decision will weigh. I am confident that most Coloradans – no matter what their views on the death penalty may be – will respect and understand the unique burden of this decision.”

Dunlap was convicted in 1996 of killing four employees at a Denver-area Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. The jury sentenced him to die. His last guaranteed appeal was rejected this year.

His execution was scheduled for August.

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