Murder trial of Edward Montour rekindles death penalty debate

march 5, 2014

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — It was a murder trial putting the death penalty on trial.

Opening arguments began in the death penalty murder trial of Edward Montour, accused of killing a Limon prison guard in 2002.

Montour pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

If a jury finds him guilty, the defense said executing Montour will cost taxpayers more than a million dollars.

Supporters sais it’s a cost worth bearing because sometimes only death is the appropriate punishment.

Prosecutors said they want Montour, who is already serving a life sentence for the death of his infant daughter in 1997, to die for beating Limon 23-year-old prison guard Eric Autobee to death with a kitchen ladle in 2002.

“Your government is trying to kill one of its citizens. There is no bigger step that any government could possibly take,” said Montour’s defense attorney, David Lane.

Lane was fighting to save Montour’s life — as was the victim’s own father.

“A lot of people think because I forgave him I don’t want him punished,” said Bob Autobee, Eric’s father. “That is completely wrong. People who do these things have to be punished, but death is not the answer.”

What is the answer was hotly debated in court.

Montour would join three others on Colorado’s death row, including Robert Ray, Sir Mario Owens and  Chuck E Cheese killer, Nathan Dunlap, who Gov. Hickenlooper last May gave an indefinite reprieve.

“Our system of capital punishment is imperfect,” said Gov. Hickenlooper during a press conference following his decision to spare Dunlap’s life. “And, there’s an inherent inequity that, at such a level of punishment, it really does demand perfection.”

Republican gubernatorial candidates tackled the issue during a FOX31 debate Sunday.

“Nathan Dunlap is a heinous mass murderer,” said Colorado Senator Greg Brophy. “He killed four people in cold blood. If I had been governor I would have had an execution about six months ago.”

“The people of the state of Colorado support the death penalty, and we support our juries and judges to make the right decisions,”  added Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

But Montour’s lawyer said the direction of the death penalty nationally is very clear.

“There are now 25 states — that’s about half the country — that have abolished the death penalty or put a moratorium on it primarily because it costs so much money. It is far cheaper to lock up someone for life in solitary confinement,” argued Lane.

Years of legal appeals have made the death penalty so costly.

Many studies found housing someone in prison for the rest of their life is actually cheaper than the state spending money on lawyers defending the death penalty.

Montour’s trial is expected to last two months.

Other death penalty cases include: James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora theater shootings and Dexter Lewis, accused of stabbing five people to death at a bar.


RELATED STORY: Man facing death penalty may have been wrongfully convicted in 1st case

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