Utah GOP lawmakers want to end capital punishment

Many republican state lawmakers are again pushing to end the death penalty in Utah.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said abolishing capital punishment is usually seen as a "left -leaning, liberal" position, but that he supports that effort as a "staunch conservative." Hughes believes government "can and will" get it wrong when it comes to executing someone.

Speaking at a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, Hughes said, "I think it's an outdated form of punishment, and I think we as a society in 2018 are better than that."

The legislation, HB379, was introduced by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville. The bill would ban the state from seeking the death penalty for aggravated murder committed after May 7, 2018. It would not affect the nine men currently on Utah's death row.

"I don't think it's the government's right to take life," Froerer said. "Let's be pro-life from first born to the existing people that we have in our society."

A similar bill to outlaw capital punishment in Utah passed the Senate in 2016 but died in the house. Both Froerer and Hughes say they have had a change of heart over the death penalty since then. They expect an uphill battle again this year.

An opponent of the bill, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, says he favors capital punishment because of the "justice factor." In Utah, he said, death row is for "the worst of the worst."

Also Tuesday, the House passed a bill calling for a study of the costs of capital punishment. A previous study estimated costs around $1.6 million, but Ray and others have disputed that number.

Public domain photo.


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