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Conservatives Advocate To Eliminate Utah's Death Penalty

Nevada Department of Corrections via AP
An execution room in Nevada

Utah is one of 31 states in the U.S. that uses capital punishment as a penalty for murder.

“As a proponent of limited government, I can’t trust government to deliver mail to the right house. How can I trust them to execute the right person?” said Darcy Von Oren, the executive director of the Utah Justice Coalition.

Under Utah law, aggravated murder is the only crime that can evoke the penalty of death, but the definition of aggravated murder is too broad according to Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty director Ralph Dellapina

“Utah has the longest list of aggravating circumstances of any state in the country, which means the death penalty in Utah is probably unconstitutional,” Dellapina said.

But the lack of definition and the legality of capital punishment in Utah are only a few of the many reasons members of the panel say they are concerned about the death penalty.

“You have minority perpetrators where they are nearly ten times more likely to receive the death penalty and so it seems to be targeting minorities and more specifically African-Americans,” Von Orden said.

In 2014 forty-two percent of death row inmates were African American. The cost to keep those inmates on death row is another reason she opposes the practice.

“Utah has done its own studies to find that it cost tax payers 1.6 million dollars more if a case is eligable for death row.” Von Orden said. “They could end up deciding by the end of a case, ruling that this person is guilty in man slaughter or third-degree murder but since death penalty was on the table the state tax payers are incurring all of those costs when in fact you could have just given them life without parole and avoided this entire cumbersome and ridiculous process that ensues when the death penalty is on the table.”

Dellapina believes the U.S. judicial system is too flawed to risk the lives of potentially innocent people.

“Any time a system is run by human beings there is going to be human error and where the result is of an error is potentially death then that is something we want to try and avoid as human beings,” Dellapina said.