Jan. 28, 2022 | The Utah state legislature is currently considering a bill that would abolish the state’s death penalty. House Bill 147 ("Death Penalty Modifications") is sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow (R) and Sen. Daniel McCay (R).
Utah’s short legislative session is only 45 days, and ends on March 4. Because of this, the bill is expected to move quickly. While there are no hearings scheduled yet, HB 147 has moved from the Rules Committee where it was first introduced to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee for consideration.
The abolition bill has been championed not only by legislators, but family members of murder victims. One of these advocates is Sharon Wright Weeks, whose sister, Brenda, and niece, Erica, were murdered in 1984 in American Fork, Utah.
After suffering this horrific loss, Weeks’ family found themselves being dragged through a high-profile death penalty trial, followed by decades of appeals. She describes it as “being revictimized over and over and over again.”
Weeks recently appeared on a Catholic Mobilizing Network webinar about Utah’s pending abolition bid alongside Utah prosecutor and former death penalty supporter Creighton Horton. A recording of the webinar is available below.
About Utah’s Death Penalty
Utah hasn’t executed anyone in over a decade, since taking the life of Ronnie Lee Gardner on June 18, 2010 by firing squad. There are seven men currently incarcerated on the state’s death row.
A 2017 report by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice revealed that Utah spent almost $40 million between 1997 and 2016 on death penalty-eligible cases. Only two of these 165 cases actually resulted in a death sentence.
Building a Culture of Life in Utah
In a recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City affirmed the abolition effort in Utah, saying “Repealing the death penalty in Utah is a critical step to building a deeper culture of life across our state.”