ALL NEWS

Utah County attorney will no longer seek death penalty

Sep 8, 2021, 12:12 PM | Updated: Sep 9, 2021, 9:00 am

PROVO, Utah — Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced on Wednesday that he would no longer seek the death penalty in cases brought to his office. 

“Today I announce as the Utah County Attorney I will no longer seek the death penalty,” Leavitt said in a recorded statement.

The announcement comes as two Utah legislators announced their intentions to end death penalty punishment in Utah.

Mr. Leavitt outlined his reasoning for his position by sharing two of Utah’s death penalty cases which originated from Utah County —  those of Gary Gilmore and Ron Lafferty.

Leavitt said he was 13 years old when Gary Gilmore was placed on trial and found guilty of murdering Max Jensen and Bennie Bushnell in a trial that lasted just two days. 

“Both Max and Bernie [sic] have faded from our collective memory, though they live on in the memory of their loved ones. Gary Gilmore, on the other hand, became a household name,” Leavitt said.

“At the conclusion of the two-day jury trial, the jury convicted (Gilmore) of both murders and gave him a death penalty. A firing squad executed Gary Gilmore three months after his trial. The entire ordeal from murder to jury trial to execution took barely over six months.”

That was the opposite of what Leavitt said happened to Ron and Dan Lafferty eight years later. 

 

Death Penalty Announcement from CreativeStream Inc. on Vimeo.

“I was 21 years old and I remember the tragedy of it,” Leavitt said.  “The Lafferty jury trial lasted nine days. The jury convicted them both. The jury gave Ron the death penalty. However, it allowed Dan Lafferty life without the possibility of parole.

“Despite receiving the death penalty, Ron Lafferty was never executed. The appeals process was still pending when he died of natural causes.

Leavitt said in those 35 years he was able to finish college, law school and spend nearly three decades practicing law. A practice that he said eventually led him to the decision to seek the death penalty for another murder case in Utah County.

“That decision has required an enormous expenditure of resources both in time and taxpayer dollars, all of what we’ve spent, and more would be worth it if it would prevent another senseless murder from occurring,” Leavitt said.

But it doesn’t, and it won’t, pretending that the death penalty will somehow curb crime is simply a lie.”

Leavitt said the key to making communities safer and preventing “these types of horrible crimes is education and prevention before they occur.”

He added that his responsibility is to all victims of crime in Utah County and that the resources committed to seeking the death penalty limited his office’s ability to assist and care for victims of other crimes.

He added that the position he is taking won’t stop his office from aggressively prosecuting homicide cases, but will make the community safer.

“What we have learned is that the death penalty does not promote community safety and is not an effective deterrent. It simply demonstrates our societal preference for retribution over public safety.

“My commitment to you when I took office was to focus our efforts at community protection, rather than on methods of the past that have long since proven ineffective, focusing on all victims. … no longer seeking the death penalty advances that commitment.”

Today’s Top Stories

All News

plane collision...
Laura Studley, CNN

‘Multiple casualties’ reported after two planes collide over California airport, authorities say

Two planes collided as they approached a California airport Thursday afternoon. Emergency personnel said there were multiple casualties.
22 hours ago
Utah Republicans are looking to ban transgender surgeries and other hormone-based care....
Mark Jones

Senate confirms John Valentine as chair of Utah State Tax Commission

John Valentine was confirmed by the Utah State Senate on Thursday to serve as chair of the Utah State Tax Commission. He has served in that role since 2014.
22 hours ago
The brilliant colors of Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic hot spring are among the park...
The Associated Press

Part of a foot, in a shoe, spotted in Yellowstone hot spring

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials are investigating after a park employee spotted part of a foot, in a shoe, floating in a hot spring in the southern part of the park, officials said Thursday. Tuesday’s discovery at Abyss Pool led to the temporary closure of the West Thumb Geyser Basin […]
22 hours ago
Utah capitol is picture. Leaders reacted to a leaked abortion opinion...
Chris Jacobs

Legislative committee discusses rule banning conversion therapy

Conversion therapy was a topic of discussion by a legislative committee on Thursday. The committee adjourned without making a decision one way or the other.
22 hours ago
Salt lake city hit a record number of 100 degree days and the state is close to the all-time highes...
Waverly Golden

Records set for 100 degree days in SLC and flood warnings statewide

Salt lake city hit a record number of 100 degree days and the state is close to the all-time highest number of flood warnings statewide.
22 hours ago
Autistic brothers drowned...
Mark Jones

Two autistic brothers with ties to Utah drown off Hawaii coast

According to their aunt, two autistic brothers drowned off of the coast of Hawaii on Aug. 11. The boys have family ties to Utah, both their parents were raised here.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Utah County attorney will no longer seek death penalty