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Politics & Government

Four County Attorneys Urge Utah Leaders To Overturn The Death Penalty

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Emily Means
/
KUER
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt all signed onto a letter asking for state leaders’ support to repeal the death penalty. Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan also signed the request.

The Salt Lake, Summit, Grand and Utah County Attorneys sent a letter to the governor and state Legislature Tuesday, urging them to support a bill that ends capital punishment.

Their message comes after two Republican state lawmakers said they would try again to repeal it. It’s the third time in five years there has been an effort to end capital punishment in Utah at the legislative level.

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said it’s a matter of criminal justice reform, and the issue is completely nonpartisan.

“Each of us has the right to be presumed innocent,” Leavitt said. “Each of us has the right to have the government prove its case against us and not have the government decide who's guilty, but to have a jury of our peers decide who's guilty.”

Last week, he announced he would no longer be seeking the death penalty in future cases as the Utah County Attorney.

The attorneys are hopeful lawmakers will approve legislation to eliminate the death penalty because there’s an option to replace it with stronger prison sentences.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has been a staunch supporter of capital punishment, and he said the replacement doesn’t persuade him.

“That's a terrible idea,” Ray said. “I'd rather they try to stick with life without parole versus 45 [years] to life. It opens up to parole convicted murderers that are evil and dangerous, and that's terrifying.”

Ray suggested letting the public decide the issue through a ballot initiative.

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