- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Opening statements began Monday in the murder trial of Dexter Lewis, who is charged with stabbing five people to death in a Denver bar, marking the start of a rare death penalty case in Denver.

It’s the first time Denver prosecutors have tried a death penalty case since 2001, and the first time District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has sought to execute a defendant since he was sworn in in 2005.

A jury was chosen last week out of a pool of nearly 600 people, the Denver Post reported (https://tinyurl.com/pqlnjlq ).

Lewis, 25, is charged with killing five people inside Fero’s Bar & Grill on South Colorado Boulevard in October 2012. Two co-defendants, brothers Lynell and Joseph Hill, pleaded guilty to the killings in July 2013.

Joseph Hill pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree felony murder, and his brother pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and arson.

The victims included 53-year-old Young Suk Fero, an Aurora woman who owned the bar; Daria M. Pohl, 21, of Denver; Kellene Fallon, 44, of Denver; Ross Richter, 29, of Overland Park, Kansas; and Tereasa Beesley, 45, of Denver.

Lewis also is charged with trying to hire a former prison cellmate to kill several witnesses who were expected to testify against him.

The last time a Denver jury chose to execute someone was in 1986, when Frank Rodriguez was convicted in the rape and murder of Lorraine Martelli.

Colorado has three men on death row, but the state has not executed anyone since 1997.

In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper granted an indefinite reprieve to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, essentially putting a hold on executions while he is governor.

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