Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday cut short the sentences of six more men convicted of murder and pardoned a seventh, continuing to use his clemency authority more than ever before as he prepares to leave office.
Last week he shortened the sentences of six other men convicted of murder.
“Hundreds of applications for clemency have come through our office. We have selected only those where the individual has a proven track record of rehabilitation,” Hickenlooper said in a written statement. “Those granted clemency today have shown they deserve a second chance and have the support system to help them succeed.”
Hickenlooper granted a conditional pardon to Promise Y. Lee, who pleaded guilty in 1975 to second-degree murder for an “extremely serious crime” committed in El Paso County when he was 15 years old. Lee and four others were convicted in the killing of a Fort Carson soldier.
Lee’s pardon comes “with the exception of restoration of firearm privileges.”
“I made this decision because of the work you have done to transform your community,” Hickenlooper wrote in Lee’s pardon order. “In particular, you have focused on youth growing up in difficult circumstances and helped them avoid the path you took as an adolescent. I believe your work can, and possibly has, saved lives. I grant this pardon in large part to enable you to access more people who can benefit from your work.”
Hickenlooper’s decision comes as he is poised to run for president in 2020. This stretch of clemency actions are the most the term-limited Democrat has exercised since 2013, when he granted Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve from execution.
Dunlap shot and killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese in 1993. Dunlap was sentenced to death, but Hickenlooper halted his execution because he said the jury may have landed on a different punishment if they had known he was bipolar.
All of the murderers granted clemency by Hickenlooper were young when they committed their crimes.
Two of the six men were juveniles when they committed their crimes.
One is Terrance S. Wilder, who was found guilty of first- and second-degree murder for killing two ministers, Joel England, 24, and Roderick Marable, 38. Wilder was 17 in 1998, when the men were shot. England also was bludgeoned.
Wilder was re-sentenced earlier this year under Colorado’s 2016 guidelines for youth offenders ordered to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, because of the sentences he faced for related crimes, his estimated parole-eligibility date is 2104, which Hickenlooper called “effectively a life sentence again.”
“Mr. Wilder has demonstrated that he will respect Colorado’s laws and productively contribute to our state and to our society,” Hickenlooper wrote in his letter commuting Wilder’s sentence. “He has taken full accountability for his actions and recognizes the mistakes he made in the past.”
Under Hickenlooper’s order, Wilder will be parole eligible after he serves 40 years in prison. He was convicted in 1999 and has been in prison for 19 years.
The other juvenile is Nathan Ybanez, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 for crimes he committed when he was 16. He beat his mother to death, according to earlier Denver Post reporting, and has said that both she and his father abused him before the killing.
He will be parole eligible on Dec. 1, 2020, and so far has served 19 years in prison.
“There were many mitigating factors in Mr. Ybanez’s case related to his family situation and home life,” Hickenlooper wrote in his order, “But none of this came to light during his trial. While this in no way excuses his criminal conduct, it provides important context for the circumstances around his actions.”
The other murderers who received reduced sentences are:
- Dwight O. Anderson was convicted of first-degree murder in 1995 for crimes he committed when he was 20. He has served 23 years in prison and under Hickenlooper’s commutation order he will be eligible for parole after 40 years.
- David L. Coleman was convicted of first-degree murder in 1987 for crimes he committed when he was 22. Hickenlooper noted that Coleman, at the time of the offense, had recently been honorably discharged from the Marines and was addicted to drugs. He will be parole-eligible on Dec. 1, 2022.
- Bruce Mingo was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 for crimes he committed — Mingo was involved in the beating death of an immigrant taxi cab driver, according to news reports from the time — when he was 19. Hickenlooper noted others convicted for the same crime were sentenced to much shorter prison terms. He will be parole eligible on Dec. 1, 2023.
- John P. Sherman, the oldest of the men whose sentences were cut short by Hickenlooper, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1987. He will be parole eligible on July. 1, 2021. Sherman’s original parole eligibility year was 2027.
Also on Friday, Hickenlooper granted 20 more pardons and cut short the sentences of six other offenders who were convicted of lower-level crimes.
Hickenlooper to-date has pardoned 156 individuals and granted 18 commutations.
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