Death penalty repeal bid in conservative Utah fizzles again

FILE - This June 18, 2010, file photo shows the firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison, in Draper, Utah. A new state report finds that each death row inmate in Utah costs $1.66 million more in taxpayer money than one sentenced to life in prison without parole. State lawmakers weighed the costs of capital punishment at a hearing that came after the legislature both brought back the firing squad and seriously considered eliminating death sentences altogether. (Trent Nelson/Salt Lake Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker on Friday abandoned his effort to repeal the death penalty, saying the measure didn’t have quite enough support.

With five days remaining before legislators adjourn, Republican Rep. Gage Froerer said it wasn’t worth taking up time to debate the emotional subject.

“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. “I’m convinced whether its next year or five or 10 years from now the death penalty will go away.”

It’s the second time in recent years that a GOP-backed effort to end capital punishment in the state has fizzled. Among the biggest hurdles were crime victims who wanted the option to seek capital punishment.

Froerer, a Republican from Huntsville who is not seeking re-election this year, said he hopes another legislator will continue the effort.

He and House Speaker Greg Hughes, also a Republican, argued that ending the death penalty should be a conservative position because conservatives are “Pro-Life,” believe the government is imperfect and should be limited.

Utah came close to repealing the death penalty two years ago but the measure didn’t have enough support in the House. This year, Froerer said he believes about 34 members of the 75-member House would have voted for repeal, and a debate may have swayed a few more votes but the tally would have been razor-thin.

Across the U.S., 19 states and the District of Columbia have overturned or banned the death penalty.

Froerer’s proposed ban would not have applied to cases where the death penalty has already been sought and the nine men on Utah’s death row still would have been facing execution.

Gov. Gary Herbert said last month that he believes society has the right to “eradicate” people who commit egregious crimes, but because appeals from death row inmates can drag on for decades, he said capital punishment can be unfair to the families of victims.

The move to end capital punishment in the conservative state came three years after Utah voted to reinstate the firing squad as a backup method for executions.

Hughes, who voted to reinstate the firing squad, says that if the government is going to execute people, there’s no need to “sanitize” a brutal act by relying solely on lethal injections.

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