Death Penalty Repeal Effort Dies In Utah

Casey Harper | Contributor

A promising legislative effort to repeal Utah’s death penalty has failed.

Republican Utah Sen. Steve Urquhart was helping lead an effort to repeal the state’s death penalty, but he admitted defeat Thursday night to the Associated Press. The state’s senate passed a repeal bill 15-12 at the beginning of March, but the bill was unable to get a vote in the House before the Thursday night deadline.

“I do think this is a growing coalition of people who understand the death penalty is not working,” Urquhart told reporters after the senate vote. “Morally, philosophically, I can’t say I’m opposed to the death penalty, I’m moving in that direction. For me, it’s pragmatic concerns. I just feel horrible for the families that they can’t get closure.”

The bill would not have applied retroactively to the state’s nine inmates. Urquhart told the AP he hopes to bring the issue back in the next few years. Death penalty repeal efforts may seem surprising in conservative states like Utah, but they have become more common. The steam the movement gained is surprising since the state voted last year to bring back firing squads when lethal injection drugs are not available.

“Following the Utah Senate’s decision to repeal the death penalty and the Utah House committee’s support of repeal, it is unmistakable that an increasing number of conservative Republicans in Utah, like those in Nebraska, are realizing that the death penalty is irrevocably broken,” Marc Hyden, National Advocacy Coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a statement. “Everywhere I go across the nation conservatives are re-thinking the death penalty because it is inconsistent with our values of safeguarding life and promoting fiscal responsibility and limited government.”

Nebraska’s state legislature repealed the death penalty and even garnered enough votes to overturn the governor’s veto in May of last year. After the passage of the law, enough Nebraskans signed a referendum petition that the issue will finally be decided in a ballot vote in November.

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