Death penalty repeal bill won’t be heard in the Utah State Legislature

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to abolish the death penalty in Utah will not be heard in the state legislature.

After days of keeping it on the floor of the House of Representative waiting to be debated, Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, called up his bill and then said he would not move it forward. He said perhaps future legislatures would take it up.

“It’s probably one of the most emotional bills I’ve run in my 12 years of tenure in the House,” he said.

Rep. Froerer suggested he did not have the votes to pass it, so he would not take up time to debate it. Other lawmakers thanked him for his efforts to pass it and his decision to abandon the legislation. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearield, thanked him for listening to the families of murder victims, including some who opposed his bill.

Some hugged him as the bill was killed.

Speaking to FOX 13 outside the House chamber, Rep. Froerer said he believed it would have been a close vote but he wasn’t sure if it would pass. He said he was disappointed.

“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. “If you look at the history of the death penalty bill and the states that are shying away from it, you look at all the factors that are involved with why we should keep the death penalty they don’t hold up in today’s society. So I’m convinced whether it’s next year or five or 10 years from now, the death penalty will go away.”

Sharon Wright Weeks, the sister of Brenda Wright Lafferty, told FOX 13 on Friday she was disappointed the bill wouldn’t be debated. Brenda and her baby daughter Erica were murdered in 1984 by her brothers-in-law, Ron and Dan Lafferty. Separate juries decided that Dan would serve life in prison and Ron would be executed.

Ron Lafferty is still in the midst of appeals over his death sentence.

“I’m disappointed. I was at this point in my personal experience…I really thought after everything I tried, I think this could be about the only gift we could give to victims’ families and victims’ loved ones was to unchain them from the person who took their loved ones’ lives,” Weeks said. “Because you are chained to them for the rest of their natural life.”