Capital punishment in Utah
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. The current method is lethal injection. Aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death under Utah law.
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. 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.
Reintroduction of capital punishment
Utah formally reinstated capital punishment on January 7, 1973. Earlier death penalty statutes were struck down by the 1972 United States Supreme Court decision in the case Furman v. Georgia. 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.
The jury decides the sentence and may give a sentence of death, life imprisonment without parole, or a lesser sentence. 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. As of 2008[update] no commutation of the death sentence has been given in Utah.
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.
- 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.
List of individuals executed in Utah since 1976
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; 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. 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|
Before a national moratorium on capital punishment (1967–1976) and the introduction of lethal injection in 1980, Utah historically allowed death row inmates to choose between firing squad and hanging, the only state to do so up until that time.
In 1955, Utah lawmakers voted to introduce the electric chair, but due to failure to provide appropriation, the state never used electrocution. 21-year-old Barton Kay Kirkham was the last prisoner to be hanged by the state of Utah, in 1958. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Executions in Utah before 1967
44 executions occurred in the State of Utah and Utah Territory before the national moratorium in 1967; six were by hanging and the rest were by firing squad. 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.
|#||Name||Date of execution||Method of execution||Victim(s)||Governor|
|*||Patsowits||Spring 1850||garroting||An emigrant settler||—|
|Antelope and Long Hair||September 15, 1854||hanging||Two sons of a Mormon bishop in Cedar Valley||Brigham Young|
|3||Thomas H. Ferguson||October 28, 1858||hanging||Alexander Carpenter||Alfred Cumming|
|4||William Cockcroft||September 21, 1861||firing squad||Robert Brown||vacant|
|–||"Unknown Man"||1862||firing squad||Unknown person|
|5||Jason R. Luce||January 12, 1864||firing squad||Samuel R. Bunton||James Duane Doty|
|6||Robert Sutton||October 10, 1866||firing squad||Frederick White||Charles Durkee|
|7||Chauncy W. Millard||January 29, 1869||firing squad||Harlem P. Swett||vacant|
|8||John Doyle Lee||March 23, 1877||firing squad||Mountain Meadows massacre||George W. Emery|
|9||Wallace Wilkerson||May 16, 1879||firing squad (botched)||William Baxter|
|10||Frederick Hopt (a.k.a. Fred Welcome)||August 11, 1887||firing squad||John Franklin Turner||Caleb Walton West|
|11||Enoch Davis||September 14, 1894||firing squad||Enoch's wife|
|12||Charles H. Thiede||August 7, 1896||hanging||Thiede's wife||Heber Manning Wells|
|13||Pat Coughlin||December 15, 1896||firing squad||Deputy Sherriff Dawes and Constable Stagg|
|14||Peter Mortensen||November 20, 1903||firing squad||James R. Hay|
|15||Frank Rose||April 22, 1904||firing squad||Rose's wife|
|16||J. J. Morris||April 30, 1912||hanging||Morris' wife||William Spry|
|17||Jules C. E. Szirmay (a.k.a. Jules Zirmay)||May 22, 1912||firing squad||A school boy|
|18||Harry Thorne||September 26, 1912||firing squad||A grocery clerk|
|19||Thomas Riley||October 24, 1912||firing squad||A grocery clerk|
|20||Frank Romeo||February 20, 1913||firing squad||Albert Jenkins|
|21||Joe Hill||November 19, 1915||firing squad||John G. Morrison and his son Arlington|
|22||Howard DeWeese||May 24, 1918||firing squad||His wife|
|23||John Borich||January 20, 1919||firing squad||A woman for insurance money|
|24||Steve Maslich||January 20, 1922||firing squad||A man in Salt Lake City||Charles R. Mabey|
|25||Nick Oblizalo||June 9, 1922||firing squad||A man in Salt Lake City|
|26||George H. Gardner||August 31, 1923||firing squad||Joseph Irvine and a police officer|
|27||Omer R. Woods||January 18, 1924||firing squad||Woods' invalid wife|
|28||Henry C. Hett (a.k.a. George Allen)||February 20, 1925||firing squad||Police sergeant Pierce||George Dern|
|29||Pedro Cano||May 19, 1925||firing squad||A woman in Park City|
|30||Ralph W. Seyboldt||January 15, 1926||firing squad||Patrolman David H Crowther|
|31||Edward McGowan||February 5, 1926||firing squad||Bob Blevins (and raped his wife and daughters)|
|32||Delbert Green||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||October 31, 1938||firing squad||Oliver R. Meredith Jr.|
|34||Donald Lawton Condit||July 30, 1942||firing squad||Harold A. Thorne||Herbert B. Maw|
|35||Robert Walter Avery||February 5, 1943||firing squad||Detective Hoyt L. Gates|
|36||Austin Cox Jr.||June 19, 1944||firing squad||Judge Lewis V. Trueman (also killed two other men and two women)|
|37||James Joseph Roedl||July 13, 1945||firing squad||Abigail Agnes Williams|
|38||Eliseo J. Mares Jr.||September 10, 1951||firing squad||Jack D. Stallings||J. Bracken Lee|
|39||Ray Dempsey Gardner||September 29, 1951||firing squad||Shirley Jean Gretzinger|
|40||Don Jesse Neal||July 1, 1955||firing squad||Sgt. Owen T. Farley|
|Verne Alfred Braasch and Melvin Leroy Sullivan||May 11, 1956||firing squad||Howard Manzione|
|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||March 30, 1960||firing squad (last in Utah before 1967)||Charles Merrifield|
- Death Penalty Information Center
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- Death Penalty Information Center
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- Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
- Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)
- Methods of Execution
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