ST. GEORGE – A second attempt to repeal Utah’s death penalty has come to a halt as the legislator pushing the measure has chosen not to move it forward.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said Friday that while he had hopes for the bill, it doesn’t have enough support to pass the House of Representatives. Despite this, he hopes the effort to repeal the death penalty continues in the years to come.
“I was hopeful that Utah would be one of the first red states to take this, because the trend obviously is to do away with the death penalty,” he said. “I’m convinced whether it’s next year or five or 10 years from now the death penalty will go away.”
Froerer and others who support abolishing the death penalty say it isn’t cost-effective, many people on death row across the country have later been declared innocent and the appeals filed by death row inmates cause additional emotional trauma to the families of the victims.
Gov. Gary Herbert recently said he supports the concept of the death penalty, saying he believes society has a right to “eradicate” people who commit heinous acts, but he also believes death row cases can drag on for years in appeals and can be unfair to the victims’ families.
This is because when an appeal is filed, it is subject to a hearing in which the victim’s family members may be made to testify concerning the events surrounding the murder of their loved one.
Herbert said during his monthly news conference on KUED-TV last month that he would consider signing a death-row repeal should it survive the legislative session and reach his desk.
The first attempt to repeal the state’s death penalty was made by former St. George Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart. However, it died on the final day of the 2016 general session. Urquhart told the Legislature that it estimated that it costs the state an additional $1.6 million a year for inmates on death row. That cost included the mandatory appeals attached to capital cases.
The additional $1.6 million was estimated by legislative financial analysts in 2012 and added to the fiscal note attached to Urquhart’s 2016 bill.
There are currently nine inmates on death row in Utah.
A bill calling for a more in depth study comparing the costs associated with aggravated murder cases, including those deriving from life sentences and death-penalty sentences, was introduced by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton. It passed the House unanimously (seven absent or not voting) on Feb. 20 and is waiting to be heard in the Senate. With the Legislature entering its final week, it remains to be seen if Handy’s bill will be debated on the Senate floor.
Utah’s 2018 legislative general session ends March 8.
Ed. note: Details surrounding the estimated $1.6 million costs related to death row inmate has been clarified.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- Read the bills:
- Contact legislators
- Bill proposing death penalty amendments: Bill sponsor Rep. Gage Froerer.
- Bill proposing audit of costs for aggravated murder offenses: Bill sponsor: Rep. Stephen G. Handy | Senate floor sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler.
- Southern Utah Sens. Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Travis Seegmiller, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelsonand Michael Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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