Nine people are on death row in Utah right now. And they could be the last if Republican opposition to the death penalty continues to grow, as a new study finds.
A group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty met Wednesday at the nation’s capital to release a report that shows GOP lawmakers are lining up with bills to repeal capital punishment in their respective states. Former Utah state senator Steve Urquhart was one of those who tried to repeal the death penalty in 2016. It passed the Senate but never made it to the House. Urquhart says life imprisonment costs less than capital punishment and provides swift and final justice.
“It’s the most amazing thing I saw in my 16 years in the Utah Legislature,” Urquhart says. “Never have I seen people’s opinions change as quickly as when I would lay out these facts.”
The group’s new report shows that in 2016, ten times as many Republicans sponsored bills to repeal the death penalty than in 2000. Marc Hyden used to work for the NRA. Now he’s coordinating this national effort.
“The Republican momentum to end capital punishment is real,” Hyden says. “And it’s clearly gaining steam. And I believe this increased conservative opposition signals that the death penalties days are in fact numbered.”
Utah Justice Coalition is hoping a bill will be introduced in Utah’s upcoming legislative session to do away with the death penalty. They say they’re working with potential House and Senate sponsors now.