4 county attorneys in Utah call for end to death penalty

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, left, discusses the death penalty in Utah.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, left, discusses the death penalty in Utah at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, as Utah County Attorney David Leavitt looks on. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Calling it “a false hope,” “a big lie” and a “fraud,” the attorneys of three counties in Utah — two Democrats and a Republican — stood together Tuesday to call on state lawmakers to eliminate the death penalty.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt and Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson all announced they had signed an open letter, along with Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan, who was not present, calling on Gov. Spencer Cox and the Utah Legislature to repeal the state’s death penalty statute and replace it with a penalty of 45 years to life.

“It has failed to deter violent crime,” Gill said. “Available evidence shows that the death penalty does not have a deterring effect. It does not prevent people from committing murder or other violent crimes.”

In their letter, the four county attorneys called the death penalty a “grave defect” in Utah law that creates a liability for victims of violent crime, the due process of defendants, and for the public good. The group also laid out their reasons for calling for a repeal of the death penalty, saying that:

It does not deter violent crime.
There is a racial inequity in how it is applied.
Victims are retraumatized because of how many years a death penalty case can be appealed before being carried out.

“Instead of the death penalty providing closure to victims, the constitutional appeals that follow mean a death sentence will take decades to impose if it ever happens,” Olson said. “Since the year 2000, more men have died of old age on death row than by execution.”

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Other reasons the group says the death penalty should be repealed include the cost incurred by the government and taxpayers to pay for appeals, which is more expensive than a person sentenced to life in prison, and a sentence of death is irreversible. The group said that’s a concern because research has shown that 1 out every 10 people who are executed is later found to be innocent and exonerated.

“If a pilot was good only 90% of the time at landing the plane, we would say that person shouldn’t be flying,” Gill said.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, left, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, right, listen as Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson discusses the death penalty in Utah at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, as Utah County Attorney David Leavitt looks on.

Tuesday’s announcement comes on the heels of two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, and Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who announced they would be sponsoring a bill that would repeal the death penalty and …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

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