Capital punishment in Utah

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The execution chamber in Utah State Prison. The platform to the left is used for lethal injection. The metal chair to the right is used for execution by firing squad.

Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. state of Utah. Since 1850, a total of at least 50 individuals have been executed in Utah. A total of 9 people are under a sentence of death in the state as of June 20, 2010. Aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death under Utah law. The current method is lethal injection, however, the firing squad is also available for three current death row inmates who chose it prior to that option's elimination in 2004. Legislation to be brought before the Utah Legislature in 2014 would allow the state to use a firing squad in an execution, if the state is unable to obtain the lethal drugs necessary to carry out an execution within 30 days of a scheduled execution.[citation needed]

Utah was the first state to resume executions after capital punishment was reinstated in the United States in 1976, when Gary Gilmore was executed by a firing squad on January 17, 1977.[1] Gilmore, however, demanded his own execution, that is after being convicted of murder and sentenced to death. According to some the real end of national moratorium took place in Florida in 1979 with electrocution of John Arthur Spenkelink, who resisted his execution.[2]

Current development[edit]

Reintroduction of capital punishment[edit]

A rally at the Utah State Capitol protests the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner.

Utah formally reinstated capital punishment on January 7, 1973.[3] Earlier death penalty statutes were struck down by the 1972 United States Supreme Court decision in the case Furman v. Georgia.[4] The state's new death penalty statutes were approved by the United States Supreme Court with the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976, allowing Utah to proceed with the executions of Dale Selby Pierre and William Andrews. Both were convicted and sentenced to death for crimes committed in 1974 prior to the reinstatement of capital punishment. They were executed 1987 and 1992 respectively. The last pre-Furman execution in Utah took place on March 30, 1960.

Process[edit]

Typically, the jury decides the sentence and may give a sentence of death, life imprisonment without parole, or a lesser sentence. In Utah, a defendant in a capitol case has the option of choosing a jury or a bench trial (with the judge deciding verdict and sentence alone). This has happened once, in the case of John Albert Taylor, who waived his jury right and was convicted and sentenced to death in 1989 by 2nd District Court Judge David Roth in Weber County. Clemency rests with the State of Utah Board of Pardons and Parole and the Governor of Utah sits on the board, which makes Utah one of a handful states where the Governor has no sole power to grant clemency.[5] As of 2008 no commutation of the death sentence has been given in Utah.[5]

As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime[6] or mentally retarded[7] are constitutionally precluded from being executed.

Method[edit]

Executions in Utah are currently performed at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah by lethal injection. The firing squad is also available for three death row inmates who chose it prior to that option's elimination in 2004.[8]

Capital offenses[edit]

  • Aggravated murder
    • The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved (or involved torture).
    • The murder was committed incident to a hijacking
    • The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death for one or more persons in addition to the victim of the offense.
    • The defendant committed or attempted to commit more than one murder at the same time.
    • The murder was committed by means of poison or a lethal substance.
    • The murder was committed for pecuniary gain or pursuant to an agreement that the defendant would receive something of value.
    • The defendant caused or directed another to commit murder, or the defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, promise of payment, or anything of pecuniary value.
    • The murder was committed to avoid or prevent arrest, to effect an escape, or to conceal the commission of a crime.
    • The capital offense was committed to interfere with the lawful exercise of any government function or the enforcement of the laws.
    • The defendant has been convicted of, or committed, a prior murder, a felony involving violence, or other serious felony.
    • The capital offense was committed by a person who is incarcerated, has escaped, is on probation, is in jail, or is under a sentence of imprisonment. The actor was under a sentence of life imprisonment or a sentence of death at the time of the homicide.
    • The victim is or has been a local, state, or federal public official, or a candidate for public office, and the homicide is based on, is caused by, or is related to that official position, act, capacity, or candidacy.
    • The murder was committed against a person held as a shield, as a hostage, or for ransom
    • The murder was committed against a witness in a criminal proceeding to prevent the witness from appearing, or for revenge.
    • The homicide was committed while the actor was engaged in, or attempted to, or flight from committed or attempted child abuse.
    • The defendant was involved in the desecration of a dead human body or dismembering, mutilation, or disfiguring of the victim's body, either before or after death, in a manner demonstrating the actor’s depravity of mind. The homicide was committed incident to the abuse or desecration of a dead body.
    • The murder was committed by means of any weapon of mass destruction.

See source

List of individuals executed in Utah since 1976[edit]

A total of seven individuals convicted of murder have been executed by the state of Utah since the national moratorium was lifted in 1976. Utah is particularly notable in being the first state to execute a prisoner, Gary Gilmore, after the United States Supreme Court's Gregg v. Georgia decision validated the capital punishment statutes enacted in response to the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision. Utah is also the only state besides Nevada to have used the firing squad, although executions of this type are authorized in Oklahoma for prisoners who successfully challenge the constitutionality of lethal injection and electrocution. Recent changes to state law require that any future death row inmates be executed by lethal injection;[9] however, any prisoner who chose a firing squad before the law change will still have this option available. Only two people executed after 1977 have chosen the firing squad over the other available options – Gilmore and John Albert Taylor on January 21, 1996.[10] Ronnie Lee Gardner, convicted of murdering Michael Burdell in 1985, was executed by firing squad on June 18, 2010, making him the third person since the reinstatment of capital punishment in Utah to be put to death in this manner.

# Name Race Date of execution Method of execution Victim(s) Governor
1 Gary Gilmore White January 17, 1977 firing squad Ben Bushnell and Max David Jensen Scott M. Matheson
2 Dale Selby Pierre Black August 28, 1987 lethal injection Stanley Walker, Michelle Ansley, and Carol Naisbitt Norman Bangerter
3 Arthur Bishop White June 10, 1988 lethal injection Alonzo Daniels, Kim Peterson, Danny Davis, Troy Ward, and Graeme Cunningham
4 William Andrews Black July 30, 1992 lethal injection Stanley Walker, Michelle Ansley, and Carol Naisbitt
5 John Albert Taylor White January 27, 1996 firing squad Charla Nicole King Michael Leavitt
6 Joseph Mitchell Parsons White October 15, 1999 lethal injection Richard Lynn Ernest
7 Ronnie Lee Gardner White June 18, 2010 firing squad Michael Burdell (also killed Melvyn Otterstrom and wounded George "Nick" Kirk but was executed for murdering Burdell) Gary Herbert

Historical[edit]

Method[edit]

Before a national moratorium on capital punishment (1967–1976) and the introduction of lethal injection in 1980,[11] Utah historically allowed death row inmates to choose between firing squad and hanging, the only state to do so up until that time.[12]

Prior to becoming a state, the Territory of Utah introduced beheading in 1851 as a third option of execution.[13] No prisoner chose this method and it fell out of practice in 1888.[14]

In 1955, Utah lawmakers voted to introduce the electric chair, but due to failure to provide appropriation, the state never used electrocution.[12] 21-year-old Barton Kay Kirkham was the last prisoner to be hanged by the state of Utah, in 1958.[15] No subsequent inmate had been executed in the state in this manner by February 1980, when the Utah State Legislature replaced the option of hanging with lethal injection.[16]

Eight hours after 36-year-old murderer John Albert Taylor died by firing squad on January 26, 1996, the first bill proposing to eliminate this method of execution was introduced in the Utah House of Representatives.[17] In 2004, the legislature passed HB180, which removed the right of the condemned to choose their method of execution, and left lethal injection as the only remaining option in the state.[18][19] The abolition of the firing squad is not retroactive; three inmates on death row at Utah State Prison who chose this method of execution before the end of February 2004 will have their selections grandfathered in. Utah's latest execution, that of 49-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner, was the country's first sanctioned shooting in 14 years and the first execution by a method other than lethal injection since Virginia electrocuted Paul Warner Powell on March 18, 2010.[18]

Executions in Utah before 1967[edit]

44 executions occurred in the State of Utah and Utah Territory before the national moratorium in 1967;[20] six were by hanging and the rest were by firing squad.[21] Before the establishment of Utah Territory on September 9, 1850, the garroting of an Ute native named Patsowits in the spring of that year was the first recorded execution in the provisional State of Deseret.[22]

# Name Date of execution Method of execution Victim(s) Governor
* Patsowits[22] Spring 1850 garroting An emigrant settler
1
2
Antelope and Long Hair[23] September 15, 1854 hanging Two sons of a Mormon bishop in Cedar Valley[23][24] Brigham Young
3 Thomas H. Ferguson[25] October 28, 1858[26] hanging Alexander Carpenter[27] Alfred Cumming
4 William Cockcroft[26] September 21, 1861 firing squad Robert Brown vacant
"Unknown Man"[20] 1862 firing squad Unknown person
5 Jason R. Luce[28] January 12, 1864 firing squad Samuel R. Bunton[29] James Duane Doty
6 Robert Sutton[30] October 10, 1866 firing squad Frederick White[27] Charles Durkee
7 Chauncy W. Millard[30] January 29, 1869 firing squad Harlem P. Swett[28] vacant
8 John Doyle Lee March 23, 1877 firing squad Mountain Meadows massacre George W. Emery
9 Wallace Wilkerson[13] May 16, 1879 firing squad (botched)[22] William Baxter
10 Frederick Hopt (a.k.a. Fred Welcome)[31] August 11, 1887 firing squad John Franklin Turner Caleb Walton West
11 Enoch Davis[32] September 14, 1894 firing squad Enoch's wife
12 Charles H. Thiede[33] August 7, 1896 hanging Thiede's wife Heber Manning Wells
13 Pat Coughlin[34] December 15, 1896 firing squad Deputy Sherriff Dawes and Constable Stagg
14 Peter Mortensen[35] November 20, 1903 firing squad James R. Hay[36]
15 Frank Rose[35] April 22, 1904 firing squad Rose's wife
16 J. J. Morris[20] April 30, 1912 hanging[24] Morris' wife[37] William Spry
17 Jules C. E. Szirmay (a.k.a. Jules Zirmay)[20] May 22, 1912 firing squad A school boy
18 Harry Thorne[38] September 26, 1912 firing squad A grocery clerk
19 Thomas Riley[20] October 24, 1912 firing squad A grocery clerk
20 Frank Romeo[38] February 20, 1913 firing squad Albert Jenkins[39]
21 Joe Hill November 19, 1915 firing squad John G. Morrison and his son Arlington
22 Howard DeWeese[40] May 24, 1918 firing squad His wife
23 John Borich[40] January 20, 1919 firing squad A woman for insurance money
24 Steve Maslich[20] January 20, 1922 firing squad A man in Salt Lake City Charles R. Mabey
25 Nick Oblizalo[20] June 9, 1922 firing squad A man in Salt Lake City
26 George H. Gardner[41] August 31, 1923 firing squad Joseph Irvine and a police officer
27 Omer R. Woods[42] January 18, 1924 firing squad Woods' invalid wife
28 Henry C. Hett (a.k.a. George Allen)[42] February 20, 1925 firing squad Police sergeant Pierce George Dern
29 Pedro Cano[43] May 19, 1925 firing squad A woman in Park City
30 Ralph W. Seyboldt[44] January 15, 1926 firing squad Patrolman David H Crowther
31 Edward McGowan[45] February 5, 1926 firing squad Bob Blevins (and raped his wife and daughters)[45][46]
32 Delbert Green[47] July 10, 1936 firing squad Green's foster father/uncle James Green, mother-in-law/aunt, and wife Henry H. Blood
33 John W. Deering[48] October 31, 1938 firing squad Oliver R. Meredith Jr.
34 Donald Lawton Condit[49] July 30, 1942 firing squad Harold A. Thorne Herbert B. Maw
35 Robert Walter Avery[50] February 5, 1943 firing squad Detective Hoyt L. Gates
36 Austin Cox Jr.[51] June 19, 1944 firing squad Judge Lewis V. Trueman (also killed two other men and two women)
37 James Joseph Roedl[52] July 13, 1945 firing squad Abigail Agnes Williams
38 Eliseo J. Mares Jr.[53] September 10, 1951 firing squad Jack D. Stallings J. Bracken Lee
39 Ray Dempsey Gardner[52] September 29, 1951 firing squad Shirley Jean Gretzinger
40 Don Jesse Neal[54] July 1, 1955 firing squad Sgt. Owen T. Farley
41
42
Verne Alfred Braasch and Melvin Leroy Sullivan[55] May 11, 1956 firing squad Howard Manzione[56]
43 Barton Kay Kirkham June 7, 1958 hanging (last in Utah) David Avon Frame (also killed Ruth Holmes Webster but was executed for murdering Frame) George Dewey Clyde
44 James W. Rodgers[57] March 30, 1960 firing squad (last in Utah before 1967)[58] Charles Merrifield[59]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Death Penalty Information Center
  2. ^ "Nation: At Issue: Crime and Punishment". Time. June 4, 1979. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  3. ^ Death Penalty Information Center
  4. ^ "Furman v. Georgia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  5. ^ a b Clemency
  6. ^ Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
  7. ^ Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)
  8. ^ Methods of Execution
  9. ^ Dan Harrie (February 20, 2004). "Senate votes to end firing squads in Utah; Firing-squad executions are ending in Utah". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  10. ^ Death Penalty Information Center
  11. ^ Utah History Encyclopedia
  12. ^ a b "UTAH: Tales of the Firing Squad". Time. July 11, 1955. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "The Death Penalty for Murder". Deseret Evening News (George Q. Cannon, Brigham Young). May 16, 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  14. ^ Stack, Peggy Fletcher (June 4, 2010). "Is 'blood atonement' behind Utah firing squad request?". Scripps News. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  15. ^ Metcalf Jr., Dan (June 17, 2010). "History of Utah executions". KTVX. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Utah bans executions by hanging". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. March 9, 1980. p. 1. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  17. ^ Donaldson, Amy (January 26, 1996). "Firing squad carries out execution". Deseret News. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  18. ^ a b "Utah firing squad executes US killer Ronnie Lee Gardner". BBC News. June 18, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  19. ^ Dobner, Jennifer (January 22, 2004). "Plan to abolish firing squad advances". Deseret News. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g Martz, Maxine (January 15, 1977). "Gilmore would be No. 45 on death list". Deseret News. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  21. ^ "2 More Inmates In 'Death Row' At State Prison". Deseret News. March 31, 1960. p. 4B. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  22. ^ a b c Schindler, Hal (January 28, 1996). "Taylor's Death Was Quick . . . But Some Weren't So Lucky". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2010-06-26. 
  23. ^ a b "Utah: Tales of the Firing Squad". Time. July 11, 1955. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  24. ^ Schindler, Hal (June 27, 1993). "Lengthy Gallows Soliloquoy [sic] Impedes Swift Justice". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  25. ^ a b Schindler, Hal (August 27, 1995). "The Disappearance of John Baptiste Grave: Robber's Case Is 'A Lost Page of History'". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  26. ^ a b Elder, Robert K.; Terkel, Studs (2010). Last Words of the Executed. University of Chicago Press. p. 107. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  27. ^ "Affairs in Utah: A Murder Theatricals and Lectures Mercantile". New York Times. May 16, 1879. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  28. ^ Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 110. 
  29. ^ Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 111. 
  30. ^ Wilson, R. Michael (2007). Frontier Justice in the Wild West: Bungled, Bizarre, and Fascinating Executions. Globe Pequot. p. 106. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  31. ^ Salt Lake Herald December 16, 1896 also .p.4; on July 30, 1895 he had killed Deputy Sheriff Edward N. Dawes of Unita County Wyoming [1] and Constable Thomas Stagg of Echo County Utah [2] See also: [3] find a grave entry
  32. ^ a b Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 112. 
  33. ^ "Peter Mortensen Must Die— Prisoner Stunned By News". Deseret News. August 13, 1903. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  34. ^ "Hidden Rifles to Fulfill Execution Wish of Slayer". The Pittsburgh Press 55 (123). United Press International. October 27, 1938. p. 2. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  35. ^ a b Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 113. 
  36. ^ Pratt, Harmel L. (1914). Reports of cases decided in the Supreme Court of the state of Utah, Vol. 42. A.L. Bancroft & Company. p. 48. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  37. ^ a b Cutler, Christopher Q. (2002). "Nothing less than the Dignity of Man: Evolving Standards, Botched Executions and Utah's Controversial Use of the Firing Squad". Cleveland State Law Review. Retrieved 2010-11-10.  (subscription required)
  38. ^ Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 116. 
  39. ^ a b Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 117. 
  40. ^ Gillespie, L. Kay (1997). The Unforgiven: Utah's Executed Men. Signature Books. p. 100. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  41. ^ "Firing Squad Kills Slayer". Los Angeles Times. January 16, 1926. p. 6. Retrieved 2010-11-10.  (subscription required)
  42. ^ a b Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 118. 
  43. ^ Gillespie (1997). The Unforgiven. p. 105. 
  44. ^ "Utah Firing Squad Executes Slayer". The Evening Independent. Associated Press. July 10, 1936. p. 8. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  45. ^ Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 119. 
  46. ^ "Murderer Killed By Firing Squad". The Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. July 31, 1942. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  47. ^ Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 120. 
  48. ^ "Killer of Five Executed by Utah Firing Squad". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. June 19, 1944. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  49. ^ a b Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 121. 
  50. ^ "Utah Firing Squad Executes Slayer". The Pittsburgh Press. United Press International. September 10, 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  51. ^ "Condemned Killer Dies Before Utah Firing Squad". Oxnard Press-Courier. United Press International. July 1, 1955. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  52. ^ Benedict, Howard S. (May 11, 1956). "Utah Executes Two Murderers". Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  53. ^ "Utah Killers Face Firing Squad oday". The Lewiston Daily Sun. Associated Press. May 11, 1956. p. 20. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  54. ^ "Slayer Shot By Firing Squad". The Milwaukee Sentinel. United Press International. March 31, 1960. p. 3. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  55. ^ Beecham, Bill (November 11, 1976). "Convicted Killer Gets His Wish: Firing Squad Monday". The Telegraph (Nashua). Associated Press. p. 22. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  56. ^ "Grim Jokes Are Tossed Before Death". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. March 31, 1960. p. 19. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 

External links[edit]