Utah House Committee Narrowly Rejects Bill to Abolish the Death Penalty

Feb. 17, 2022 | On Monday, Feb. 14, 2022 a Utah House committee failed to pass death penalty abolition bill HB 147 in a vote of 6-5. The vote came after hours of testimony from advocates and opponents of the legislation.

Leading up to the hearing, hopes were high that 2022 would be the year Utah abolished capital punishment. The abolition bill, “Death Penalty Modifications,” sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow (R) and Sen. Daniel McCay (R), would have replaced the death penalty with the option of a 45-year-to-life prison term. 

“This is not a matter of if, it is when the time is right,” affirmed Rep. Snow after the hearing. “Utah will move forward. Twenty-three states already have; that’s a growing number.”

This year’s abolition bill was championed not only by a number of legislators and prosecutors, 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. She testified during Monday’s committee hearing.

“I thought of Ron Lafferty and the death penalty almost every single day of my life,” said Weeks. “It eclipses everything you do.”

Throughout the repeal campaign, Utah Catholics amplified the call for death penalty abolition, and affirmed the need for a legal system that respects the dignity of human life.

In a January op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City wrote: “Repealing the death penalty in Utah is a critical step to building a deeper culture of life across our state.”

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