IN FOCUS Discussion: Abolishing the death penalty

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In our legal system, capital punishment is the ultimate charge that can be applied to a case. Although executions are legal in this country, only half of U.S. states allow it as an option for prosecutions. Utah is one of those states that allow the death penalty. But recently over the last three years, there has been a push at the Utah State Legislature to eliminate it.

The State of Utah has quite a history with the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court case, Furman v. Georgia in 1972 put a hold on executions. But that decision was later overturned in the Gregg v. Georgia case in 1976. Utah then became the first state in nearly ten years in the country to execute a prisoner, Gary Gilmore after that ruling. In total, seven people have been executed in Utah in modern times — the last one being in 2010.

The legal process for capital punishment cases can be quite costly. According to the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, their 2018 study found the average cost of an execution was at least $237,900 more than a life in prison without parole sentence. A Utah study from 2012 found that the difference could go up to as much as $1.6 million per case.

Sen. Daniel McCay of Riverton is the lawmaker who plans on running another bill again in the upcoming legislative session to try and abolish the death penalty in the State of Utah. He joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion to talk about what changed his mind about capital punishment, why he is deciding to sponsor this legislation, and why it thinks it has a better chance of passing this session.

The initial guest scheduled to provide their perspective on why they want to keep the death penalty in Utah was unable to attend the live IN FOCUS discussion at the last-minute. But Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, who is also a lawmaker who supports keeping capital punishment in the state sent ABC4 News this statement:

“Almost every legislative session we consider a bill attempting to do away with the death penalty and every year it fails to make it through the process. If we want to continue pushing this issue, I believe it should go in front of voters. Let the people of Utah decide. While this issue is highly controversial and emotional, it is important we keep victims and their families at top of mind. Their voices should be at the forefront of the conversation.”

Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Sen. McCay, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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