District Court Recommends Denial of Dunlap Petition

The case of Nathan Dunlap, the man convicted of killing four people in an Aurora restaurant in 1993, continues to wind its way through Colorado’s court system.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado recommended to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals today that Dunlap’s petition for a writ of mandamus be denied.

Dunlap was sentenced to death in 1993 on four counts of first-degree murder. He is Colorado’s longest-serving death row inmate. Dunlap was denied on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Approximately $465,000 for Dunlap’s representation was previously approved by a trial court judge. Dunlap’s request for a budget extension through 2018 was an additional $500,000 for attorney fees as well as victim outreach, a mitigation specialist, an investigator, a paralegal and a psychologist.

Dunlap filed a writ of mandamus to approve the budget, which falls under the District Court’s jurisdiction. Under Colorado law, section 3599 “ensure[s] that no prisoner w[ill] be put to death without meaningful access to the ‘fail-safe’ of our justice system.” According to the District Court, “Dunlap did not satisfy his burden of showing how and why the requested services were reasonably necessary for the clemency process.”

The statute requires that requested financial support and services be deemed “reasonably necessary” with regard to the governor’s clemency petition. The court argues that Dunlap “failed to provide the trial court judge with anything more than gossip, rumors and speculation” regarding possible future action by the governor on his clemency petition. In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper granted temporary reprieve on Dunlap’s execution order. The order will remain in effect through the rest of Hickenlooper’s term.