Despite Brutal Murder Cases, Is Death Penalty Dead in Utah?


It has been more than five years since anyone has been added to Utah’s death row, and the Deseret News asks whether the death penalty is dead in the state, despite an abundance of murders that qualify as potential death penalty cases. From Jan. 1, 2008, to Aug. 13, 2013, 66 aggravated murder charges were filed against 54 people statewide. But prosecutors took the next step — filing a notice of intent to seek the death penalty — in only seven of those cases.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said notice of intent to seek the death penalty has only been filed by his office three or four times since 1992. Polls show that a large majority of Utahns support the use of the death penalty — more so than the rest of the country. Yet in many cases, Utah prosecutors are not pursuing the ultimate punishment. Between 1986 and 2011, 613 people were charged with murder in Salt Lake County. Seventy-three of those were charged with aggravated murder, and just a few were sentenced to death.

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