Utah Senate passes bill to repeal the death penalty

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Firing squad at the Utah State Prison.

SALT LAKE CITY — In a surprise move, the Utah State Senate passed a bill to repeal the death penalty.

The Senate voted 15-12 to pass Senate Bill 189, which would end capital punishment in Utah. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, argued it is ineffective because it costs too much to carry out, takes too long, makes “rock stars” out of death row inmates and does not deliver justice to the families of victims.

 

“I do think this is a growing coalition of people who understand the death penalty is not working,” Urquhart told reporters after the 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.”

Urquhart said his bill would not be retroactive, meaning the nine death row inmates in Utah would still be executed.

SB189 now goes to the House for consideration. Urquhart said he was confident it would pass there, pointing to his co-sponsor, Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, and support from House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

“We’re going to pass it,” he said.