In a day and age where a number of states are moving away from capital punishment, Utah seems to be embracing it. In 2015, the Legislature passed HB 11 – Death Penalty Procedure Amendments. Sponsored by Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield), the measure allows for the firing squad to be used if the substances necessary for lethal injection cannot be obtained in time. During the present legislative session, another pro-death penalty bill is being considered: HB 136 – Human Trafficking Amendments. Also sponsored by Ray, the bill allows for the death penalty to be an option in the event that a homicide that occurs while an individual is engaged in human trafficking.
[pullquote]While the majority of the legislature seems all too eager to expand the death penalty, one lawmakers wants the state to abolish the practice going forward – but is the bill dead on arrival?[/pullquote]One lawmaker is taking a different approach. Senator Steve Urquhart (Republican – St. George) wants to repeal capital punishment in Utah altogether.
Introduced in the Senate on Thursday, SB 189 – Death Penalty Amendments eliminates the death penalty as a form of punishment in future cases. If the bill passes, beginning May 10, 2016, an offense of aggravated murder committed before May 10, 2016, and for which the death penalty has not been sought, may not be charged as a capital offense. Offenses committed on or after May 10, 2016 may also not be brought forth as a capital felony. Those currently on death row, however, would still have the punishment carried out.
One of the main incentives to Urquhart has pointed to is the financial benefit of doing away with the death penalty. A study completed in 2012 by the Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s Office found that it costs approximately $1.7 million more for a capital murder case, as opposed to a sentence of life in prison.
SB 189 is attempting to do something that should have happened long ago. As society continues to move forward, we should leave capital punishment in the past where it belongs. The fact that this archaic and highly immoral practice continues should be a grand embarrassment to all. There is no evidence to suggest it acts as a deterrent to would-be killers and the number of innocent people wrongly executed is reason enough for a moratorium.
That being said, SB 189 likely won’t succeed. With the recent votes in favor of expanding the death penalty, it appears that the will of the body is simply not there yet.
To contact Senator Urquhart, Click Here.
|Impact on Average Utahn||0-1-2-3-4-5|
|Need for Legislation||0-1-2-3-4-5|