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Father Fighting to Overturn Death Penalty for Man Who Killed His Son

'You've got to be willing to heal, and you've got to let the hate go.'

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We are joined by Bob Autobee, a Colorado resident who is opposing the death penalty for the prisoner who killed his son Eric, a prison guard, in 2002. During the original trial, Autobee supported a death sentence for Edward Montour. But the Colorado Supreme Court threw out Montour’s sentence in 2007 because it was imposed by a judge, not a jury as is required. A decade later, Autobee has now changed his mind. In the new murder trial that begins today, he wants to make a victim’s statement to the jury asking them not to impose the death penalty — but the judge in the case has barred him from doing so. Autobee describes why he opposes the death penalty in this case, and why he wants to see it abolished overall. "You’ve got to be willing to heal, and you’ve got to let the hate go," Autobee says. "To me the death penalty is a hate crime, a crime against humanity." We are also joined by Democracy Now! producer and criminal justice correspondent Renée Feltz, who notes that 80 percent of Colorado voters actually passed a constitutional amendment in 1992 that enshrines the rights of victims to make a statement in cases like Autobee’s.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Nermeen Shaikh : We turn now to Colorado, where a trial set to begin today has drawn attention to the state’s ongoing debate about its use of the death penalty. The case involves a prison inmate named Edward Montour, who is accused of beating a prison guard named Eric Autobee to death in 2002. Montour pled guilty to the murder and was convicted. But the state’s Supreme Court threw out his death sentence in 2007 because it was imposed by a judge, and not a jury, as is required. Now the case is back in court. This time the killer is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, and the victim’s father, who wanted to seek the "ultimate punishment" in the original trial, has had a change of heart.

Amy Goodman : During a meeting with prosecutors, Bob Autobee asked them to spare the life of his son’s killer, but to no avail. In a surprising move, they have not only decided to pursue another death sentence, they’ve also succeeded in blocking Autobee from making a victim’s statement to the jury that expresses his request for a life sentence. Last week, the judge in the case ruled, quote, "The Autobees may testify about the emotional impact of a death sentence or a life sentence ... However, the Autobees will not be allowed to testify about what sentence the jury should impose."

For more, we turn to Bob Autobee. He’s joining us from Denver, just before he goes to the trial today. We’re also joined by Democracy Now! producer and criminal justice correspondent, Renée Feltz.

Bob Autobee, welcome to Democracy Now! How is it —

Bob Autobee : Thank you. Good morning.

AG: Can you explain how, in your victim’s statement, you’re not allowed to say what you want to say?

BA: Well, there’s been concern from the beginning when I started picketing that I could taint the jury. But this trial has already been tainted numerous times. And I feel I have as much right to speak as the DA or the defense.

NS: Well, let’s go to part of the video recording from when you met with your son’s killer, Edward Montour, this past December, along with a moderator who’s trained in the method of restorative justice. This clip begins with Edward Montour apologizing to you.