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Dialogue Set to Begin Tuesday On Abolishing Utah's Death Penalty

Photo of Utah State Capitol.
KUER File Photo
A discussion is begining in Utah Tuesday about abolishing the death penalty.

A Senate panel was poised Tuesday to begin discussing abolishing the death penalty in Utah.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, SB 189, would eliminate the punishment after nine convicts currently on Utah’s Death Row are executed.

Jean Hill, who represents the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, says she doesn’t expect the legislation to pass this year but hopes it’s the beginning of a conversation.

“That’s exactly what we need to do is really start asking ourselves: is this a penalty that is having any positive impact on the state?” she said before the senate committee hearing began.

“And I think once we get into that discussion, more and more people are going to recognize that, no, it’s not. It really has no impact and actually has a very strong negative impact both fiscally and morally, and so let’s be done with this. We don’t need it.”

The Catholic Diocese planned to join the libertarian Libertas Institute, the group Utahns for an Alternative to the Death Penalty and the ACLU of Utah in testifying for the bill in a Tuesday afternoon hearing before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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