The Senate Judiciary Committee today heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 8218, sponsored by Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, which would amend the state Constitution to prevent accused criminals facing life sentences from being released on bail.
Article 1, Section 20 of the state Constitution reads, “All persons charged with crime shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident, or the presumption great.” SJR 8218 would amend the state Constitution so that offenses which may result in a mandatory life sentence upon conviction are also not bailable.
“I’ve been discussing the bill with Senator Adam Kline, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and may have come to an agreement with him regarding the language of the resolution,” Carrell said. “The new language would read, ‘All persons charged with crime shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses and offenses that may result in a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release upon conviction when the proof is evident, or the presumption great, subject to such standards of release upon bail as shall be determined by the Legislature.’ This means that the Legislature would be able to create a tool that judges must use when setting bail for offenders. We are going to give the people a chance to reinsert the Legislature alongside the judiciary in making these decisions and bring balance back to the system.”
Carrell added that in speaking with county prosecutors, he learned that what is considered a capital offense today is not the same as what was considered a capital offense in 1889 when our state Constitution was written. Carrell says back then, stealing horses and cattle were considered capital offenses as well, and that the definition of a capital offense, for which one could get the death penalty, has narrowed to the point that it essentially is a single crime – aggravated first-degree murder.
“We are adding to the definition of capital offense to reflect the reality that there are some incredibly dangerous individuals out there,” Carrell said. “The man who murdered Lakewood Police Officers Mark Renninger, Greg Richards, Tina Griswold, and Ronald Owens was not adequately addressed by the definition in the state Constitution, and we owe it to them and all law enforcement officers to change that.”