Capital punishment in Utah
Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. state of Utah. Aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death under Utah law. Lethal injection is the state's method of choice, however the firing squad is also available in certain circumstances. As of May 8, 2011, nine people are under a sentence of death in the state. Since 1850, 51 individuals have been executed in Utah. It was the first state to resume executions after the 1967-1976 national moratorium on capital punishment.
History and Current Practices
The Spring 1850 garroting of Patsowits, an Ute native, was the first recorded execution in the provisional State of Deseret. Utah Territory was established in September 1850, and it permitted condemned prisoners to choose between hanging and firing squad. In 1851 beheading was introduced as a third execution option. No prisoner chose this method and the option was eliminated in 1888. In 1955, Utah state lawmakers voted to introduce the electric chair, however the state never used electrocution due to failure to provide appropriation. Forty-four executions occurred in the State of Utah and Utah Territory before the national moratorium in 1967; six were by hanging and 38 were by firing squad. The last pre-moratorium execution in Utah took place on March 30, 1960.
In 1967 when the moratorium went into effect, Utah was the only remaining state to allow death row inmates to choose between firing squad and hanging. Utah attempted to reintroduce death penalty statutes during the moratorium but they were struck down by the 1972 United States Supreme Court decision in the case Furman v. Georgia. The state formally reinstated capital punishment on January 7, 1973 and the new death penalty statutes were approved by the United States Supreme Court with the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. The reinstatement allowed Utah to move forward with the death sentences of Dale Selby Pierre and William Andrews for crimes committed in 1974 prior to the reinstatement of capital punishment. (They were later executed in 1987 and 1992, respectively.) On January 17, 1977, Utah became the first state to execute a prisoner after the moratorium ended: Gary Gilmore was executed by a firing squad, having selected that method over hanging. In 1978 twenty-one-year-old Barton Kay Kirkham became the last prisoner to be hanged by the state of Utah. Lethal injection was introduced in 1980 and in February of that year the Utah State Legislature replaced the option of hanging with the option of lethal injection.
The first bill proposing to eliminate the firing squad option was introduced in the Utah House of Representatives in January 1996. In 2004, the legislature passed HB180, which removed the right of the condemned to choose the method of execution and left lethal injection as the only remaining option in the state. The abolition of the firing squad was not retroactive; three inmates on death row at Utah State Prison who chose this method of execution before the end of February 2004 will be executed by firing squad under a grandfather clause. Utah's most recent execution, that of 49-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner on June 18, 2010, was the state's third execution by firing squad since the capital punishment moratorium was lifted, and the country's first sanctioned shooting in 14 years. Legislation passed by the Utah Legislature in February 2015 requires use of a firing squad if the state is unable to obtain the necessary lethal injection drugs within 30 days of a scheduled execution. Utah is the only state besides Nevada to have ever 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.
Executions in Utah are currently performed at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. Because the ethics standards of the American Medical Association forbid physician involvement in executions, other healthcare professionals including paramedics and nurses perform executions in Utah. Paramedics and nurses, however, are also forbidden from participation in executions by their own professional organizations' ethics codes. The prison protects the anonymity of professionals involved in executions, making it impossible for professional organizations to impose sanctions.
Conviction and Sentencing Process
Convicts who were under 18 at the time of commission of the crime and convicts who are mentally retarded are protected from the death penalty in Utah, as they are in all states, under federal law. Defendants in capital cases in the state of Utah may choose either a jury trial or a bench trial in which the judge alone decides the verdict and sentence. John Albert Taylor is the only Utah defendant to waive his jury right. He 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, of which the Governor of Utah is a member, making Utah one of a handful states where the Governor does not have the sole power to grant clemency. As of 2008[update] no commutation of the death sentence has been given in Utah.
Definition of Aggravated Murder
Under Utah law, aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death. It is defined as follows:
- 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.
Individuals executed in Utah
|#||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|
|45||Gary Gilmore||January 17, 1977||firing squad||Ben Bushnell and Max David Jensen||Scott M. Matheson|
|46||Dale Selby Pierre||August 28, 1987||lethal injection||Stanley Walker, Michelle Ansley, and Carol Naisbitt||Norman Bangerter|
|47||Arthur Bishop||June 10, 1988||lethal injection||Alonzo Daniels, Kim Peterson, Danny Davis, Troy Ward, and Graeme Cunningham|
|48||William Andrews||July 30, 1992||lethal injection||Stanley Walker, Michelle Ansley, and Carol Naisbitt|
|49||John Albert Taylor||January 27, 1996||firing squad||Charla Nicole King||Michael Leavitt|
|50||Joseph Mitchell Parsons||October 15, 1999||lethal injection||Richard Lynn Ernest|
|51||Ronnie Lee Gardner||June 18, 2010||firing squad||Michael Burdell (also killed Melvyn Otterstrom and wounded George "Nick" Kirk but was executed for murdering Burdell)||Gary Herbert|
- List of death row inmates in Utah
- Capital punishment in the United States
- Religion and capital punishment
- List of wrongful convictions in the United States
- List of exonerated death row inmates
- "Inmates Currently on Death Row". Utah Department of Corrections. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Schindler, Hal (January 28, 1996). "Taylor's Death Was Quick . . . But Some Weren't So Lucky". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
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- Death Penalty Information Center
- Death Penalty Information Center
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- Methods of Execution
- Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
- Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)
- Wilson, R. Michael (2010). Legal Executions in the Western Territories, 1847–1911. McFarland & Company. p. 164. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
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- "Affairs in Utah: A Murder Theatricals and Lectures Mercantile". New York Times. May 16, 1879. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
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- Wilson, R. Michael (2007). Frontier Justice in the Wild West: Bungled, Bizarre, and Fascinating Executions. Globe Pequot. p. 106. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- 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  and Constable Thomas Stagg of Echo County Utah  See also:  find a grave entry
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- "Peter Mortensen Must Die— Prisoner Stunned By News". Deseret News. August 13, 1903. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
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- Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 113.
- 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.
- 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)
- Elder; et al. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. p. 116.
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- "Firing Squad Kills Slayer". Los Angeles Times. January 16, 1926. p. 6. Retrieved 2010-11-10. (subscription required)
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- Gillespie (1997). The Unforgiven. p. 105.
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- "Grim Jokes Are Tossed Before Death". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. March 31, 1960. p. 19. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
- Aggravated murder. Utah State Legislature. Retrieved on 2007-11-10.
- Capital felony – Penalties. Utah State Legislature. Retrieved on 2007-11-10.
- Capital felony – Sentencing proceeding. Utah State Legislature. Retrieved on 2007-11-10.