Death penalty dropped in Colorado’s last pending capital case

The final pending capital punishment case in Colorado ended Monday when Fourth Judicial District Attorney Daniel May withdrew the death penalty option against a man accused in the 2017 killings of two Colorado Springs high school students.

May’s decision to withdraw the death penalty option against Marco Garcia-Bravo comes after the state repealed the death penalty for cases filed on or after July 1 and after Gov. Jared Polis commuted the sentences of the three men already on Colorado’s death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Marco Garcia-Bravo is charged with first-degree murder in the execution-style killings of 16-year-old Natalie Partida and 15-year-old Derek Greer, who were both students at Coronado High School when they were kidnapped in a gang dispute and fatally shot.

May wrote in a notice filed to the court Monday that it was not plausible to pursue the death penalty against Garcia-Bravo given Polis’ clear and public determination to commute any death sentences.

“With a stroke of a pen, the governor will override a jury’s verdict, the evidence in the case, and the wishes of the victims’ families,” May wrote. “It is impossible for the people to convince a so-called thirteenth juror who has voiced a predisposed opinion and will not assess the evidence or weigh the factors considered at a sentencing hearing.”

May wrote that the families of Natalie and Derek “grieve continuously for the sudden and cruel execution of their children,” and wrote that the families disagree with the repeal of the death penalty in the state. However,  the families recognize pursuing a death sentence at this point is meaningless, and will needlessly prolong the court process, May wrote.

May’s notice reiterated many of the positions taken by 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young when he asked in March to drop the death penalty against Dreion Dearing, who is charged with killing Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm in 2018. A mistrial was declared in that case.

With capital punishment no longer an option in both cases, there are currently no pending death penalty cases in Colorado. The state’s repeal, however, does not take effect until July, so it is possible that district attorneys could pursue new death penalty cases before the repeal is enacted, or even after it is in place, given the charges were filed before July.

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