CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Death penalty repeal faces tight battle in House

Feb 4, 2022, 5:37 PM

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, center, talks to j...

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, center, talks to journalists while at the Capitol in Salt Lake City to meet with lawmakers on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, to discuss elimination of the death penalty in Utah. With Stevenson are Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, left, and Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara.

SALT LAKE CITY — The bill to repeal the death penalty will get a hearing in Utah’s House of Representatives. Whether it’ll pass remains to be seen.

Death penalty repeal

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told reporters Friday that he doesn’t want it repealed.

“I am personally not supportive of removing the death penalty as an option,” said Wilson. “I will say this, I could sit and argue both sides of this for an hour. I think it’s a valid question to ask if we should give government this power. And I think it’s worth evaluating, I am personally a no.”

The Majority Leader, Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper is on the same page as the speaker.

“These are the worst of the worst offenders,” said Schultz. “I get there’s probably been some things around the country that would make people question the death penalty, but I think we’ve got a pretty fair process.” 

The larger House GOP caucus hasn’t taken a stance on repealing it, or not.

Schultz told The Deseret News opinions are pretty split.

Healing ways

Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, says capital punishment has brought healing in the ways it has been used.

“I look at the Lizzy Shelley case, in Cache County three years ago… a little girl, abducted in the middle of the night by her uncle,” said Snider. “They find him a couple of hours later, walking the streets with pieces of her, in my district, a few miles from my home. That Lizzy was the same age as my daughter at the time she was brutally murdered and raped. In a plea deal, they said we will not seek the death penalty for you. We will put you in jail for the rest of your life if you will tell us where the body is, if you tell us where you left her. Because of that agreement, because we have those tools in place… it brought Lizzy home.”

So, he’ll vote to keep it intact. 

The bill is currently in a House committee.

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Death penalty repeal faces tight battle in House