Utah Death Penalty News

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heidi salazar

Weber County to pull nearly $250,000 from county budget in '10 to cover death penalty cases

OGDEN -- Eye for an eye, but there's a cost to getting biblical on defendants in death penalty cases.

Weber County will likely have to pull close to a quarter- million dollars out of the county budget this year to pay for the defense of those the county has charged with capital homicide.

"If they were hiring a private attorney and paying general market rates for a capital homicide defense, it would be close to a million dollars for each case," said veteran defense attorney Bernie Allen.

"They're getting a hell of a deal."

The pressure was relieved somewhat with a sentencing last month in one of the three death penalty cases the county attorney's office was juggling simultaneously.

Riqo Perea was sentenced to life in prison without parole after his jury conviction in March for a 2007 gang double homicide. The death penalty was dropped on the eve of trial, but appeals await nonetheless.

The county is in negotiations with defense counsel for Jacob Ethridge, facing the death penalty for a double homicide in July 2008, and Jeremy Valdes, in the same straits for a November double killing.

Neither legal team has been paid for its work to date this year on the cases. The county changed its system of funding public defenders Jan. 1, with no apparent appropriation for capital defense.

Payment schedules and witness fees are now being negotiated in both cases, said Chris Allred, one of the deputy Weber County attorneys involved in those discussions, who concedes the cost could approach a quarter-million dollars total this year.

"Assuming they all go the distance, it might be that much," he said.

A lump sum capital account was included in public defender appropriations for decades under the old Weber County Public Defenders Association. Additional appropriations were made when Perea and Ethridge were charged in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Before then it wasn't much of a concern, as capital homicide charges hadn't been filed since 2001.

But the 40-year-old association was disbanded last year, with the county negotiating individual contracts with attorneys effective Jan. 1 this year. So officials face a one-time-only cost of paying for three death penalty defense teams at the same time.

Prosecutors simply stack their capital cases on their regular caseload, paid via their annual salary. The county hasn't paid anything yet this year for capital defense as the negotiations continue.

"They still owe us for Perea since the end of the year, as well as Ethridge," said Allen, who, with law partner Randy Richards, handled Perea's defense and now waits on their fees in Ethridge's case.

The rule of thumb for a minimum paid to public defenders in a capital case is a flat rate of $100,000 per case, Allen said, which can equate to $28 an hour given the time commitment needed for an appropriate defense.

"A public defender can get beat up pretty bad during the appeal process for what he's not able to accomplish at trial for lack of funds," he said.

That further delays the county's goal of execution when appeal issues are created over the county's lack of funding, Allen said. "And they're the ones who filed the charges in the first place."

Public defender Gary Barr, assigned the Valdes case along with fellow public defender Ryan Bushell, said they've yet to be paid for their work since Valdes was charged in December.

Barr is still waiting on a contract to be negotiated, just as Allen and Richards wait on their contract for Ethridge. Fees in Perea's case are not at issue apparently, just payment.

Barr expects a six-figure contract for Valdes' case, yet to be set for trial and still early in the motion phase. But the $100,000 or so he expects is well below the market rate considering the work involved in a capital case, Barr said.

"You'd think the county would want to make sure a capital homicide trial is done right the first time. Otherwise, that's the first issue on appeal -- ineffective counsel," he said.

"If they want to do capital cases, file charges to have someone executed, then they'll have to pay for it."

Ethridge finally has a November trial date and Perea's trial came 2 1/2 years after the murders, so it's likely Valdes' case will run into 2011. Allred expects to have to pay Valdes' attorneys next year.

It's been decades since the county attorney's office has had three capital cases at the same time, Allred said.

"We certainly hope it doesn't come up too often."

The status of defense counsels' pay negotiations came up briefly Friday during a status conference for Ethridge before 2nd District Judge W. Brent West.

West has set an Oct. 1 deadline for filing further motions in the case, with some flexibility for last-minute developments.

The defense indicated a motion will be coming to exclude potential jurors who might still adhere to a "blood atonement" concept once taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Under the defense theory, the belief that punishment for those who shed the blood of another can only come with shedding of their own blood makes a juror unfairly disposed to the death penalty.

The motion was filed in the Perea case, but became moot when the death penalty was taken off the table.

West set a July 16 date for final discussions on a jury questionnaire.

Negotiations continue over the question of Ethridge visiting his private dentist for problems stemming from prior reconstructive surgery. The newly hired jail dentist apparently "only fills cavities and pulls teeth," Allen told the judge.


heidi salazar

79 percent of Utahns support death penalty, poll finds

SALT LAKE CITY -- In the course of seven years, Utahns' support for the death penalty has not waned.

Results from a Deseret News-KSL poll conducted this week show that 79 percent of Utahns either strongly or somewhat favor the death penalty. The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, found that only 16 percent oppose executions.

The poll results mirror a 2003 survey that asked Utahns the same question. In that Deseret News poll, 78 percent favored the death penalty and 17 percent opposed it. Because of the built-in margin of error, the results were basically identical.

The number of Utahns who favor the death penalty is 15 percentage points higher than the rest of the nation, according to a 2008 Gallup poll that showed 64 percent of Americans favor capital punishment.

University of Utah sociologist Heather Melton said those who support the death penalty often do so for moral reasons and out of a belief that it will somehow right a wrong.

"One of the reasons people seem to support the death penalty is because they see it as justice for what happened or revenge, kind of an 'eye for an eye, this is what they deserve,' " she said. "People who support it feel they are getting justice."

Not only do Utahns overwhelmingly believe capital punishment is just, they go so far to say that the sentence is not used enough. Sixty-three percent of the 312 Utahns polled said they do not believe the death penalty is imposed as often as it should be in the United States. Twenty-one percent believe it is imposed "about the right amount" and 8 percent feel that it is imposed too often.

Utahns would like to see more executions compared to the country as a whole. According to a nationwide Gallup poll conducted in October, 49 percent said they do not believe the death penalty is imposed often enough, with 24 percent saying it is imposed "about right" and 20 percent believing it is imposed too often.

Melton said there are a number of reasons that may explain why Utahns favor capital punishment so much. Those who are conservative, white and male tend to be pro-death penalty, she said.

The Dan Jones poll found men favoring the death penalty only slightly outnumber women -- 84 percent to 77 percent. And while very few Utahns who identified their political ideology as conservative said they oppose the death penalty, the majority of those who consider themselves moderates or even somewhat liberal still favor capital punishment, the survey indicated.

All of those polled who identified a religious affiliation were far more likely to favor the death penalty than oppose it. Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology at BYU, said this can partially be explained in religious doctrine.

"Religious teachings of various kinds teach justice and consequences for what you do," Bahr said. "There are scriptures on both sides, but culturally there are notions that in justice and fairness, if you killed somebody, you should have to pay for that."

This belief was echoed by Andy Dudzik, 78, of Green River, Wyo., who was definitive in his support of capital punishment.

"I'm for it," he said Thursday while shopping in Salt Lake City. "I figure if they kill somebody they should have their life taken away, too. Taxpayers shouldn't be paying for murderers, that's for sure."

But others randomly interviewed by the Deseret News were less absolute. Stacy Hamm, 32, an architect from Salt Lake City, said she was "torn" on the issue but was definitely more for the death penalty than against it.

"It seems like a horrible, mean thing to do when they could just get life in prison," she said. "I don't think all people who get the death penalty should have it, but those who commit crimes against children or who are vicious and mean-spirited and commit serial crimes that are unfathomable should get it on the basis of their crimes and their mentality."

Melton said people's opinions will change depending on the details of a crime. It is not uncommon for someone who supports the death penalty to do so conditionally.

"Many people who in theory support the death penalty have qualms because when you look at the research on white victims vs. non-white victims, people are much more likely to get the death penalty when there's a white victim than if there's non-white victims for the same crimes," Melton said. "People who support (the death penalty) are concerned about biases."

But for some, an opposition to the death penalty is rooted less in moral reasons than a belief that it just isn't effective. David Swigart, 46, a window and door installer from Salt Lake City said he feels like the death penalty fails as both a deterrent and as a just punishment. The way he sees it, it's a drain on resources.

"I think (the death penalty) is set up wrong," Swigart said. "I just don't believe in it. It costs a lot of money, with all the appeals and time it takes and it's an easy way out. Why not make someone think about what they did for the rest of their lives?"


heidi salazar

Guv wants streamlined death penalty appeals

After the state executed convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, Gov. Gary Herbert said he wants to see the appeals process for condemned prisoners streamlined, so executions can be carried out more expeditiously.

"Twenty-five years is just too long. There ought to be a process that's more timely," Herbert said Thursday during his monthly news conference on KUED. "It's just too long and it becomes too much of a circus atmosphere. ... And it doesn't serve the families very well."

Gardner was executed by firing squad June 18 for the 1985 slaying of attorney Michael Burdell during an attempted courthouse escape. He also wounded bailiff Nick Kirk. Gardner was to stand trial for shooting Melvyn Otterstrom during a bar robbery in 1984.

Nine men remain on Utah's death row; the longest-serving is Ronald Lafferty, who was first condemned in 1985 but was re-sentenced in 1996. Douglas Carter was sentenced to death in 1986 and re-sentenced in 1992. Ralph Menzies was sentenced in 1988.

"I think justice delayed is justice denied," Herbert said.

Herbert said he has discussed ways to streamline the death penalty with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Shurtleff had pushed for an amendment to the Utah Constitution that would let the Legislature limit post-conviction appeals. But the amendment effort was dropped after the Utah Supreme Court agreed to a rule change directing courts to not consider the merits of appeals that were not pursued with "reasonable diligence" during an inmate's time on death row.

The rule change took effect in January, and the Utah Supreme Court referred to the rule in rejecting one of Gardner's final appeals, finding that Gardner could have raised the issues that were grounds for appeal any time in the previous 10 years.

Will the rule shorten the amount of time condemned inmates spend on death row?

"We hope so," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker, who handles capital appeals.

"One of the problems, of course, is those are state law changes and can't affect directly the federal court," he said. It will take some time to figure out if the rule change, along with changes to state law in 2008 and 2010, ultimately expedite the appeals. In the meantime, he said, the Attorney General's Office isn't working on any new revisions.

Troy Booher, a Salt Lake City lawyer specializing in post-trial appeals, says the best way to streamline the appeals process is to make sure the accused gets a fair, thorough trial the first time, but that would take money.

"I think if we're going to have a death penalty, 25 years is too long between sentence and execution," Booher said. "Our view is the way you streamline the process is to fund the best attorneys to defend people on death row and if it's done right the first time, there's a lot less there to challenge."

Utah is one of two states that does not provide any state funding for its indigent defense fund, not even for capital cases, said Darcy Goddard, legal director for the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, leaving counties with the expense, which strains their resources and undermines the accused's defense.

"To the extent that the governor is concerned about expediting the process, which is something I'm not going to opine on one way or another, one way to do it is to make sure the representation they get from the beginning is quality representation and the resources to mount a good, competent defense are provided," she said.



December 10, 2010, 05:26:45 AM Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 05:33:01 AM by kanga
DECEMBER 9, 2010:


Death row inmate Troy Kell takes wedding vows in handcuffs

Utah death row inmate Troy Kell was married at the Utah State Prison Thursday afternoon.

Details on who the woman is and how the pair met are unknown, but prison officials confirmed that the wedding took place before two witnesses and a justice of the peace, which is customary unless the inmate designates a different officiant, Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke said.

The nuptials took place in a small room with a barrier that prevents any physical contact. Kell's violent history, which includes his time in prison, required that he remain handcuffed during the entire ceremony. The 2 were not allowed any contact before, during or after the wedding took place.

Kell was sentenced to death in 1996 for the brutal murder of fellow inmate Lonnie Blackmon, who Kell stabbed 67 times with a homemade shank. He was seen on prison video surveillance tape recordings strutting and yelling "white power" after killing Blackmon, who is African-American.

The death-row inmate was initially given a life sentence without parole in Nevada for shooting James Kelly 6 times in the face. He was then moved to the Utah State Prison in Gunnison as part of a prisoner exchange program.

It was there, in 1994, when he stabbed Blackmon, leading him to have more limits placed on his activity in prison.

"Troy is more restricted than the typical death row inmate because of the crime and his behavior," Gehrke said. "A typical death row inmate would have more privileges and freedoms than Troy Kell would."

While most death row inmates are let out of their cells for recreation time 1 hour each day, Kell is only allowed out for a 1-hour stretch 3 times a week.

He is allowed 2 visitations per month, which can last up to an hour and a half, all of which must take place behind a glass partition. He can write as many letters from his solitary confinement cell as his materials allow.

Any phone calls the man would make would have to be placed to those on an approved list and during Kell's 3 hours of out-of-cell time, Gehrke said.

His trial, for aggravated murder, was held within the prison compound because of security concerns. He was set to die by firing squad in 2003, but filed an appeal. The process for that appeal is ongoing.

Gehrke said Kell and his fiance met all of the requirements to make the wedding possible, including a background check on the woman.

Salt Lake County Jail inmate Curtis Allgier, also known for his white-supremacist views, planned a wedding earlier this year -- on Adolf Hitler's birthday, but it was cancelled at the last minute. Allgier is facing the death penalty in the 2007 slaying of corrections officer Stephen Anderson.

Salt Lake County Correctional Lt. Michael Deniro said the decision to cancel the wedding was made by Allgier and his fiance.

"They are not married and there are no plans at this time," Deniro said.

(source: Deseret News)


Another desperate!!


JANUARY 29, 2011


Bill seeks to curb delays caused by death-penalty appeals

A bill that seeks to shorten the decades-long delays caused by death penalty appeals was unanimously passed from the House Judiciary Standing Committee on Thursday.

HB202 -- sponsored by former 6th District Judge Kay McIff, R-Richfield -- would generally bar a court from issuing a temporary stay of execution following a defendant's 1st post-conviction petition. The bill also would limit public funding of defense counsel after that first post-conviction petition has been rejected.

McIff said his bill is designed to discourage frivolous or untimely appeals while still allowing for claims based on new evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel or other issues with potential merit.

"We're not going to put anyone to death if a meritorious claim is out there that hasn't been heard," McIff assured committee members.

Post-conviction petitions, which are filed following a defendant's direct appeal to the Utah Supreme Court, are a catch-all device in the process "to review anything and everything that may have been overlooked," McIff said.

Following that review, McIff said, "the process is complete." But he said some death row inmates have filed for post-conviction relief up to 4 and 5 tim2es -- sometimes without good reason and sometimes by holding onto a meritorious issue "like a piece of jerky" you put in your pocket to eat later, McIff said.

McIff said his bill was prompted by condemned killer Ronnie Lee Gardner, who filed his 4th post-conviction petition just a month prior to his execution by firing squad last June.

By limiting stays of execution following the 1st post-conviction petition, HB202 would encourage defendants to advance their best theories as part of their 1st petition, he said.

Said LaVar Christensen, R-Draper: "Without this [bill], they can circle back and try all different theories, and 1 day it's been 20-plus years."

McIff said he and Assistant Utah Attorney General Thomas Brunker have met with criminal defense attorneys who wanted to discuss their concerns about the bill.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)




U.S. Supreme Court to determine Ott's sentence in fiery death

The Utah Attorney General's Office hopes to hear a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court as early as next month about reinstating a life-without-parole prison term for Mark Anthony Ott.

A 6-year-old girl died when Ott intentionally set his estranged wife's house on fire Sept. 1, 2002. Ott cut the phone lines to the Layton home of Donna Ott, who had filed for divorce three months earlier and had a protective order against him.

He then broke into the home and stabbed Donna Ott's boyfriend, Allen Lawrence, 23 times. He also stabbed his wife's teenage daughter, Sarah Gooch, when she tried to intervene. Ott then doused the house with gasoline and set it on fire.

Everyone inside the house escaped except for Lawrence's 6-year-old daughter, Lacey Paige Lawrence, who died from smoke inhalation.

Ott pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and several other aggravated felonies in exchange for prosecutors dropping the death penalty.

In April 2004, a 12-member jury in Farmington sentenced him to life without parole.

But in January 2010, the Utah Supreme Court overturned Ott's sentence and ruled his rights were violated because Ott's stabbing victims and Lacey's mother and sister testified that Ott was remorseless.

They also testified they did not believe Ott would ever change and feared for their safety if Ott were ever released from prison.

"We believe the Utah high court was wrong in reversing the jury's sentence of life without parole," Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said in a news release Friday.

"We are therefore seeking justice from the U.S. Supreme Court for the victims of this brutal crime.

"Young Lacey Lawrence, who was killed in the fire Ott set, as well as his stabbing victims and Ott's family members whom he terrorized for years and still fear his release, deserved to be heard and to see him locked up forever."

The National Crime Victims Institute filed a friend of the court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the state's appeal.

The petition asks the justices to hear the case to address whether a crime victim -- in a death penalty case -- has the right to comment on the character of the defendant, the circumstances of the crime and the appropriate sentence.

The high court has held since 1987 that victims in a capital case do not have that right, Laura Dupaix, chief of Shurtleff's appeals division, said in an interview.

The thinking is to eliminate all potentially inflammatory evidence in what is the most serious of cases, a death penalty case, she said.

Such victim commentary is allowed in all other cases.

"We think we have some good issues for them to consider, that should interest them," Dupaix said.

Because defendants in a death penalty case are allowed at sentencing to put on all manner of character testimony from relatives, employers and so on, Dupaix said it's "only a matter of fairness that victims likewise should be allowed to present evidence that contradicts that."

She also argues that jurors considering sentence won't be prejudiced by a victim's strong opinions because they've already heard the evidence in the case and convicted the defendant.

"Allen Lawrence called Mark Ott a murdering terrorist," Dupaix said. "Allen was there that night. He was stabbed 23 times. He saw his house go up in smoke and lost his daughter.

"For him, Mark Ott is a murdering terrorist, which the jury would surmise anyway."

Dupaix said she expects a decision toward the end of February from the high court on whether it will consider the petition for a writ of certiorari, as it's called.

"It's always a long shot," she said. "They get 8,000 writs for certiorari a year, and they only take up less than 100."

(source: StandardNet)


The bill was passed by the House, 67-5, on Tuesday. It now goes before the Senate.


Bill would make death penalty process faster and more fair

February 1, 2011
SALT LAKE CITY -- A Richfield lawmaker does not want another death penalty case in Utah to last 25 years before the execution is carried out.

House Bill 202 would make the appeals process fair and assure the state it had not made a mistake in prosecuting someone charged with murder, but at the same time "it recognizes that 25 years is too long," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kay L. McIff, R-Richfield.

The bill was passed by the House, 67-5, on Tuesday. It now goes before the Senate.

McIff said it took the state 25 years to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner because Gardner was able to file four post-conviction petitions.

The courts rejected all the petitions as being without merit, but it still cost the state "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and added years between conviction and Gardner's execution. Gardner was convicted of murdering Michael Burdell during an attempted escape from a Salt Lake City courthouse in 1985.

The bill would allow one post-conviction petition for further review by the courts. It also does not allow a defendant to hold back any claims of a mistake they believe may have occurred either during trial or during the appeals process, McIff said.

McIff said the defendant has to bring every claim of wrongdoing to the court of appeal the first time.

If the court rules the trial court handled the case correctly, there will be no more stays of execution, McIff said.

But if the appeals court finds there is merit in the defendant's claims, a stay of execution can be granted.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said lawmakers need to remember what the bill is about.

"I don't want us to lose sight that we're killing people who've killed people, and we're doing it in the name of the state," King said.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he favors McIff's bill because it brings "finality and closure to the victims' families sooner," but it also allows defendants time to file legitimate claims.

The current system "has swung the pendulum too far, allowing defendants frivolous shots for appeals," Rawlings said.

Currently the Davis County Attorney's Office has three defendants -- Nathanael Sloop, Stephanie Sloop and Sun Cha Warhola -- charged with capital murder. All could face the death penalty if convicted.



Governor favors the death penalty, right?  ???
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


Governor favors the death penalty, right?  ???

He did for Ronnie Lee Gardner:)    A 'pussycat with claws'.
He agrees with what was just passed in the House.  I hope the Senate agrees also.


Utah gov says death penalty appeal too long

June 27th, 2010
In the wake of the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner and his twenty five years on death row, Utah's Governor Gary Herbert says he wants the process streamlined, so executions can be carried out more quickly.

"Twenty five years is just too long," Herbert said during his monthly news conference Thursday at the University of Utah's KUED studio in Salt Lake City. He found the experience sobering, and he also talks about how expensive the process is and how it does not help the families who are involved.

Gardner was in court in 1985 charged with murder when he killed an attorney and wounded a bailiff during an escape attempt. He was executed by firing squad in the early morning hours of June 22nd.

There are still nine men on death row in Utah. The longest is Ron Lafferty who has been there since 1985. "I think justice delayed is justice denied," said Herbert. He says he is currently discussing ways to streamline the process with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Current Utah law states appeals that are not pursued with "reasonable diligence" during an inmate's time on death row need not be considered. This law became effective in January 2010 and is the main reason behind Gardner's appeals being rejected. The appeals were not filed at any time during the ten years before his execution. The law does not affect federal court rulings, but could still speed up the process. This was the first time the law was a factor in an execution.

Some experts maintain the best way to speed up the process is to provide a good defense. Utah is one of two states that do not fund an indigent defense fund - not even for capital murder.



Governor Gary Richard Herbert website


Governor favors the death penalty, right?  ???

In Utah, the governor sits as a voting member of the Board of Pardons, and the state Constitution and appropriate Utah statutes grant the Board exclusive authority as to determining whether or not clemency will be granted in any given case. The lone unilateral action that the governor can take in a death penalty case is the issuance of a one-time reprieve. Said reprieve only lasts until the Board of Pardons reviews the case, which generally takes place at the board's next regularly scheduled meeting.

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, was the sitting lieutenant governor when now-former Gov. Jon Huntsman was appointed by President Obama to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. Once his appointment to the ambassadorship was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Huntsman resigned as governor; and Herbert automatically became governor immediately upon Huntsman's resignation.

Accordingly, it really makes no difference whether or not Herbert supports the death penalty or not, given a Utah governor's very limited authority in a death penalty case as alluded to above.   


I want to see some scumbags in this state taken out.
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


I want to see some scumbags in this state taken out.

Unfortunately, it does not seem that any of Utah's remaining death row inmates will face an execution date imminently. Most of them are still in the midst of their appeals.


Utah's death penalty costs $1.6M more per inmate

First Published Nov 14 2012 05:42 pm Last Updated Nov 15 2012 10:59 am

Craig Watson said he didn't know if "closure" was the proper word.

But as he witnessed the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who killed Watson's cousin Melvyn J. Otterstrom at a bar in 1984, a feeling of peace came over him: It was, finally, over.

As Utah lawmakers weigh the cost of executing men like Gardner versus keeping them in prison for life, Watson asked them on Wednesday to remember there are some things that no amount of money can touch -- a message also shared by Barbara Noriega, whose mother and sister were killed by another man now on Utah's death row.

"With the death sentence, there are no recurring offenders and we can go on with our lives," Watson said, his voice breaking at times as he addressed the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, asked for the analysis, the first study to examine what the capital punishment option costs the state and local governments. Handy has not proposed any legislation and said Wednesday he is "under no illusion that people in Utah want to change the present law." But Handy said the comparative costs of life without parole and the death penalty -- which a legislative fiscal analyst pegged "unofficially" at an added $1.6 million per inmate from trial to execution -- should be understood.

"Which direction citizens of Utah choose to go remains to be seen," Handy told the committee.

It is a topic of discussion in other states as well. New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut all did away with the option in recent years. A year ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on executions and ordered a review of that state's capital punishment law. On Nov. 6, voters in California, where more than 700 inmates sit on death row, rejected a proposition that would have repealed the state's death penalty; proponents argued for doing away with the option based on its costs.

Lawmakers may get some insight into Utahns' views of capital punishment from a survey being conducted by students at Utah Valley University under the direction of Sandy McGunigall-Smith, an associate professor of legal studies. The survey will be sent to 6,000 people randomly selected in Ogden, West Valley City, Kamas, Saratoga Springs, Alpine and Taylorsville.

Thomas Brunker, an assistant Utah attorney general, said the state has two policy interests in supporting capital punishment: deterrence and retribution. Gardner's case illustrated a "special" interest in assuring a condemned person could not kill again, he said, while the heinous nature of the crimes committed by other Utah death row inmates highlighted society's "right" to exact retribution.

Ralph Dellapiana, a defense attorney and death penalty project director for Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the cost estimates fall short of capturing the full expense of the dozen or so aggravated murder cases filed each year in which the death penalty is an option. Such cases require thousands of hours of extensive, multi-generational social histories of the offender, for example, costs that would not be incurred if the penalty were replaced with a life without parole alternative. The cost analysis also doesn't include expenses incurred in cases that are prosecuted as capital offenses but that end up in plea deals or acquittals, as occurred recently with Curtis Allgier, who shot and killed corrections officer Stephen Anderson during a 2007 escape attempt.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


November 18, 2012, 06:26:59 PM Last Edit: November 18, 2012, 06:38:40 PM by turboprinz
Delays mark appeal for Utah death-row inmate Ronald Lafferty in 1984 case
Courts Judge has yet to determine whether competency issue is relevant.

By Aaron Falk

| The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Jan 30 2012 02:15 pm Last Updated Jan 30 2012 11:55 pm

Almost a year after a federal judge set a three-month time line for conducting new competency evaluations of death-row inmate Ronald Lafferty, only two of the three evaluations have been completed.

As attorneys argued legal issues Monday in U.S. District Court, Judge Dee Benson said he was hopeful the competency issue for the 70-year-old Lafferty could be settled this spring.

"My goal -- which is probably one of the worst met goals since the Chicago Cubs started trying to win a World Series -- is to move this along," Benson said of the appeal in the 1984 murder case. "I was under the naive impression that we could get this done quickly. ... This is taking forever."

Two doctors have evaluated Lafferty. The results of those evaluations remain under seal, but attorneys on Monday indicated that Lafferty, whose legal team has said he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, has been unable to rationally communicate with his attorneys about the appeal of his conviction and death sentence.

A doctor hired by the Utah Attorney General's Office will meet with Lafferty starting next month and begin his evaluation.

Depending on the results of the three evaluations, Benson could decide to hold an evidentiary hearing on the competency issue or rule that Lafferty is not entitled to such a hearing at this point in the appeal.

Thomas Brunker, of the Utah Attorney General's Office, has argued it is irrelevant whether Lafferty is competent and that the federal appeal should be based on the record at the state court level.

Lafferty and his brother, Dan, were convicted of the July 24, 1984, slayings of their sister-in-law and her 15-month old daughter. Brenda Lafferty was beaten and strangled with a cord before her throat was slashed. The child, Erica, was found dead in her crib with a slashed throat.

According to testimony at trial, Dan Lafferty slashed the victims' throats but said that Ron Lafferty had ordered the killings because he had received a revelation from God.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


 Condemned Utah killer Menzies a step closer to execution
Court Judge denies petition for reliefpost-conviction.

By melinda Rogers

| The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Apr 02 2012 03:41 pm Last Updated Aug 05 2012 11:31 pm

The 25-year legal saga of condemned killer Ralph Leroy Menzies took a small step toward an execution date last month, when a 3rd District Court judge denied an appeal contending the defendant received inadequate representation from his lawyers who handled his murder case in the 1980s.

Judge Bruce Lubeck denied Menzies' request on March 23.

But Menzies -- convicted by a jury and sentenced to die for the 1986 kidnapping and slaying of Maurine Hunsaker, a 26-year-old mother of three -- will now argue to have his case overturned for a fourth time before the Utah Supreme Court in the future.

Said Utah Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker: "We are pleased with the outcome and optimistic this case will now move forward with greater speed. We have argued and maintain that Menzies had excellent representation by highly skilled attorneys both at trial and on direct appeal. Even though the most skilled attorneys sometimes make mistakes, that did not happen here."

The now 53-year-old Menzies took Hunsaker from the convenience store where she worked, then tied her to a tree before he strangled her and slashed her throat. At the time of the murder, Menzies had been on parole for the 1978 shooting and robbery of a Salt Lake City cab driver.

Menzies tried to appeal his conviction and death sentence, but both were upheld by the Utah Supreme Court in 1994. Menzies filed a second appeal in 3rd District Court in 2002, which a district court judge denied. But the Supreme Court later reinstated the appeal, citing "deplorable" work by Menzies' attorney in the first appeal.

Menzies' attorney then left the case and the appeal was delayed as several other attorneys refused to represent Menzies because of low-pay offered in the case. In 2009, attorneys Craig Peterson and Theodore Weckel agreed to represent Menzies. Weckel is the 15th defense attorney on Menzies' case.

Weckel has said that Menzies' attorney at his initial trial, Brooke Wells, who is now a U.S. magistrate, didn't effectively cross-examine witnesses, and botched a proper defense for Menzies. Lubeck agreed with prosecutors that Wells did an adequate job of defending Menzies.

Brunker has argued that Menzies continues to try to draw out the case and that he is not entitled to avoid the death penalty.

Menzies still has appeals options in federal court.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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