Lawmaker to try to repeal the death penalty in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- A new bill in the Utah State Legislature seeks to end capital punishment in Utah.

House Bill 379, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, would put a moratorium on the death penalty.

"I think the proper time the proper path forward at this time, is to do away with the death penalty," he said in an interview Friday with FOX 13.

It would not impact the nine men currently on death row in Utah. Rep. Froerer said they had already had their crimes adjudicated, but he wanted a bill that was proactive.

HB379 is the fourth bill in the Utah State Legislature that deals with capital punishment. Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, has a bill to expand it to include first responders; Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has a bill to add a police officer dying in a chase as an aggravator; and Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, has a bill to study the cost of the death penalty.

Recently, Utah's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice produced its own study that found the state spent $40 million over the past 20 years on court and incarceration costs to execute two people.

"We really need to make the decision from a policy standpoint, is this a good use of taxpayer dollars?" Rep. Froerer asked.

Supporters of his bill are already coming forward.

"The death penalty does not promote justice, it promotes violence. As people of faith, we believe that justice and mercy walk hand-in-hand. Throughout religious teachings, we learn that mercy is the only true way to overcome evil," said Jean Hill, a government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Rep. Ray said he believes capital punishment in Utah is still necessary. He supported more study of the death penalty's cost, and said it may be more expensive to keep someone alive without parole. He said past efforts to repeal the death penalty have not fared well in the House.

"Two years ago, when the death penalty bill came over, it was dead on arrival in the House," he said.