Craig Silverman Show, George Brauchler, August 23, 2014

Station:   KNUS, 710 AM

Show:      Craig Silverman Show

Guests:    Brauchler


Date:       August 23, 2014


Click Here for Audio

HOST CRAIG SILVERMAN:  […] That was George Brauchler mentioned.  And so I contacted George. I gave him the sound.  I said, “Do you know who these guys are?”  […] Tell everybody who John Hickenlooper was talking to.

ARAPAHOE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY GEORGE BRAUCHLER:  So these are some independent CNN producers that were developing an 8-part series on the death penalty.  I think 5 or 6 of those parts have aired already.  I videotaped  my piece with them last year— I want to say October-November.  My understanding is that they interviewed the Governor this year.  And I know that only because I ran into this production crew in the elevator at the Capitol during the legislative session when I was going to testify on a bill.  And so this is an interview that they’ve conducted that’s they’re trying to do an analysis of the death penalty.  I mean, the fair disclaimer here is, it’s narrated by Susan Sarandon.  It’s produced by Robert Redford, so you know it’s going to be right up there with the Koch brothers in terms of its view of the death penalty.

SILVERMAN:  Yeah, right.

BRAUCHLER:  Um, but this thing was supposed to air months ago, and then it was supposed to air in June, and then July.  And now it’s been pushed off indefinitely, just this episode.  So it hasn’t yet aired on CNN.  But that’s who he’s talking to.

SILVERMAN:  And I think I might know why.  Now, I got to listen to the raw tape.  You hear the people come into the room.  And they start off by telling the Governor, “We want you to repeat our questions.”  Because, as I understand it, […] it’s my understanding that the person asking the questions was never going to be heard on the broadcast.  Probably Susan Sarandon would substitute in like she was actually there asking the questions.  So they ask Governor Hickenlooper to play that role, which the Governor gladly did.  But he quickly perceived he was in the company of people who really hated the death penalty and he knew the people behind them were CNN, Robert Redford, and Susan Sarandon. So, this Governor likes to please people.  And in the process, he revealed something pretty startling, George Brauchler. I know you’ve heard it, and the entire audio is up on my website […].  But this is when he makes news, and i know that the sound is not the best quality, but listen to the Governor telling CNN that “don’t worry about capital punishment in Colorado.  If, God forbid, I’m defeated by a Republican, before I leave office, i will grant that clemency.  I will issue those commutations. Nobody’s going to be on death row in Colorado.” Listen to  Governor Hickenlooper back earlier this year as he talks with CNN.  [plays audio]

Unidentified Interviewer: In a sense, are putting themselves out there —I mean, specifically Tancredo and I think that there are probably  others, who are saying, “Elect me and we’ll kill this guy.”  Doesn’t that feel like a lynch mob, I mean is some [inaudible]?

Hickenlooper:  Well, we won’t let that happen.  I mean, obviously, it does feel that way.  And if that becomes a political issue, in that context within the campaign, um, obviously there’s a period of time between the election and the end of the year where you’re supposed to make decisions, such— as Governors, right?

Interviewer:  Do you feel like you can control as much as you can that issue?

Hickenlooper:  Yeah, i mean, a)  that’s, to me, unthinkable.

SILVERMAN:  [quoting the governor from the tape]  “We won’t let that happen.  There are the couple months between the election and when the new guy gets sworn in.” And then at the end of the interview, a guy named Greg who must have been the super producer, he tries to get the Governor to further commit to freeing everybody in Colorado’s death penalty system.  He does it like this.  [plays audio]

Unidentified Interviewer:  “In other words, we emotionalize this topic. We try to make it bigger than it maybe should be, on a relative scale.  Could you, um, detail what you mean by what you said.”

Hickenlooper:  Well, you don’t want to go into too much detail on these things, but you know, the issue that a political campaign would make a human life, you know, into a political football is unacceptable, right?  And it’s not — and they — I think it would backfire tremendously on their candidate, if they did that.  And if they did do that, and somehow they won, there are obviously remedies that the Governor can do, you know — I could give a full clemency between the Election Day and the end of the year.  I could — there are a number of different opportunities that —to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Again, human life should not be a political football.

[chatter among the production crew and John Hickenlooper]

SILVERMAN:  Beautiful, Governor!  I left that last part in because you could see how happy CNN was with that answer.  John Hickenlooper saying you don’t want to go into much detail on these things, but if they do, God forbid win — a Republican — there are remedies the Governor can undertake during those two months of the interim period.  So, Governor, why don’t you say that to the people of Colorado?   George Brauchler, you heard about this.  Are you surprised?  What did you think when you heard this sound?

BRAUCHLER:  Craig, I have to tell you, when you had me listen to this before — it was yesterday — um, I could have not have been more frustrated and infuriated by those words, in part because the Governor’s excuse to the state of Colorado when he granted the reprieve was, “I’m not going to make that decision.”  And he specifically said he wasn’t going to make that decision and he would leave it for a future governor.  And yet, here he is, surrounded by buddies, doing a CNN documentary, that still hasn’t been release, where he tells them, “If I lose, I’ve got steps I can take between the election.”  What he’s telling — What he’s not telling Colorado but he’s telling CNN is, “Don’t worry.  I’ve already granted clemency, because either I’m going to get re-elected and he’s not going to die, or i’m going to lose and he’s not going to die.”  It is, Craig, — I mean, this is explosive audio.  I’ve never heard of anything so contradictory to publicly-taken statements on a matter of such significance in this area.  And I’ll say one other thing that really is frustrating as a Coloradan — not just as the District Attorney of the office that prosecuted Dunlap.  But here’s a guy who says, “How could you turn this into a political football —a person’s life?”  Here is a man who made the conscious decision, the deliberate decision to say, “I’m not going to execute him, but I’m going to wait for the next political person who’s elected into this position, to make that decision.”  How could  you be so naîve as to not expect that that, in and of itself, becomes a campaign issue?  They—the next person that’s elected, they’re approach to the death penalty.  Here’s a guy who has gone forward now, with Eli Stokols, and said, “I’ve decided, I guess, in my early sixities, I actually am now anti-death penalty.” He has made Nathan Dunlap’s life and this case a political issue, and now throws down the declaration to CNN, “If someone beats me, or someone is going to use this to defeat me, I will make sure that the greatest mass murder in the history of Colorado — convicted — stays alive.”  I’m outraged.

SILVERMAN:  I am, too, George Brauchler.  And before you came on the air, we played his interview with Brandon Rittiman, a very good reporter at 9news.  And we have that posted on our website, as well. Governor Hickenlooper said it would be wrong to grant clemency.  Just as you articulated, he said, “I’m going to leave it to the next Governor.”  But then he tells the people at CNN, “Don’t worry about it. If it happens that I’m defeated, I will clear out death row.”  And he has announced his opposition to capital punishment.   And I know you can’t talk about pending cases, but The Denver Post who is in bed with John Hickenlooper, long ago determined that capital punishment is not appropriate.  They always want to blame you for the James Holmes trial.  They say, “Hey!  You know what?  The Public Defender has offered to plead him guilty.  He would go away for the rest of his life.  We could save all this expense.  So, why doesn’t George Brauchler just do that and save the state all that money/“  Now, you have John Hickenlooper decrying the expense of capital litigation, which is expensive.  But you know what?  If John Hickenlooper has the courage of his convictions that capital punishment should not be allowed in Colroado, then why don’t the public defenders just march in, plead guilty, agree to the death penalty, secure in the knowledge that John Hickenlooper will then grant clemency to James Holmes, and he can do the same thing with Dexter Lewis who the Public Defenders represent in Denver, Colorado.  He killed five people.  Holmes killed over a dozen people.  So, the bottom line, [The] Denver Post, is why don’t you blame John Hickenlooper for the expenses.  Where is John Hickenlooper on this issue?  It’s frustrating.  I know you’re frustrated.  And it’s already influencing capital cases.  Let’s take it out of the realm of James Holmes, but just if, God forbid, there’s another case that warrants capital punishment in your jurisdiction, what effect is there on a jury to know that the Governor of this state has come out strongly against capital punishment, George?

BRAUCHLER:  Um, well, without speaking to any pending cases — and I get you get this, how diligent we’ve been about trying to follow the court’s order on commenting  on it — I’d say any District Attorney in this state — and you probably had two good examples just within the last 3 or 4 months, where someone engages in multiple homicides, for instance, down in Pueblo and Canon City.  Of course — of course!— as a prosecutor you’d have to take into consideration  the well-publicized positions of the head of state government, who has the ability to grant pardons, reprieves, and clemency, who announces, “I’m no longer supportive of this state laws that has been on the books, in one form or another, since we became a state and before.”  Of course you have to factor that into your analysis.  I can’t imagine it doesn’t have an impact on Mitch Morrisey, as he begins to think about jury selection in his case.  How does he deal with the issue that the head of state government has not only made Dunlap a political issue, but has now made his position well-known, which is, “I simply refuse to support the death penalty, despite the fact that it is the law of the land.”   It’s an issue.

SILVERMAN:  It absolutely is, George. I know how busy you are.  I really appreciate you joining Craig’s Lawyer’s Lounge.  I think your outrage is justified.  The final comments, you’re in touch with the victims — uh, the relatives of the victims — in the Chuck E. Cheese massacre.  How do most of them feel about what Governor Hickenlooper did?

BRAUCHLER:  Let’s be clear that this comment isn’t about whether it would have been pro-death or pro-clemency.  I don’t know of a single victim  who isn’t outraged and negatively affected by the Governor’s decision, because it did not bring them one millimeter closer to closure.  These are people who have dealt with this fucking chest wound of the loss of a loved one through a violent mass murder.  And for 20 years, they have held true to the faith that somehow they were going to wrestle some sense of justice out of our court system.   And when it finally came time to hear that answer, whether it was going to be life or death — and clearly, either answer was going to make some people mad— but it would have been over.  It could have gone to bed the night after the Governor made his decsion, and realized, “It’s gone. It’s done. I can mover forward.”  All he did was invite these people to revisit the horror, the emotional loss, come into his chambers, and then announce, “Hey, everybody!  I simply can’t make a decision.  Thanks for coming in.”   What does it do to these people, Craig?  I mean, it’s just —.

SILVERMAN:  Right.  And what does it do to the victims in the Aurora theater massacre?  What does it do to the victims in the Fero’s massacre in Denver.  You know, Governor, these decisions have consequences on real people who have suffered real losses.  And to put them into this state of animated suspension, it’s unfair.  It’s not right.  George Brauchler, the final word is yours.

BRAUCHLER:  I appreciate that— I think this issue is going to continue to be — especially after this audio that you and Todd got!  My goodness, if the press doesn’t make an issue of getting the Governor to say what he meant by, “I will clear out death row,” or, “I will take action between the election and January,”  I think he has now announced, unwittingly and unintentionally to Colorado, that he has every intention of saving everyone on death row, before he leaves office, regardless of the outcome of the election.  I think voters deserve to hear that.  I’m very interested in seeing where that issue goes.  But my hat is off to you and Todd for getting this audio, because it is explosive.

SILVERMAN:  Thank you, George Brauchler.  Have a great Saturday.