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Opinion: Ending the death penalty would help Utah’s economy and make people safer

Updated: Feb 18

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"When assessing where to do business, investors and employers look for signs of good governance, fiscal responsibility and evidence-based policymaking. But as a justice measure, the death penalty falls at every hurdle


On Jan. 18, Utah’s Legislature took up a Republican-led bill (HB147) to repeal the death penalty, which was immediately met with widespread and emphatic support. Backers include prosecutors, conservative lawmakers, victims’ families and business leaders like myself. This groundswell shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ending capital punishment is key to unlocking Utah’s potential. As a state, we are at a critical juncture. We have a skilled and educated workforce, excellent research facilities, and the infrastructure to support growth. We are one of the top ranked states in the country when it comes to doing business, and Salt Lake City’s new airport presents a tremendous opportunity as we look to graduate from “Crossroads of the West” to “Crossroads of the World.” However, our continued use of the death penalty presents a major stumbling block. When assessing where to do business, investors and employers look for signs of good governance, fiscal responsibility and evidence-based policymaking. But as a justice measure, the death penalty falls at every hurdle. It doesn’t make our communities safer. It doesn’t deter crime. Studies have shown that states that use capital punishment have higher homicide rates than those that abolish it. Utah County’s top prosecutor says that pretending it will curb crime is “simply a lie.” For something that doesn’t work, it’s also shockingly expensive. Over the last 20 years, Utah has spent roughly $40 million on death penalty cases — and funded only two sentences. Wasting taxpayer money like this sends the wrong message about political priorities. As we emerge from the pandemic, governments should focus on recovery and job creation — not on failed and retributive policies of the past. The death penalty also comes with a real and alarming risk of killing innocent people. Since the 1970s, at least 186 people have been exonerated and freed from death row nationwide. This means that for every eight people executed, one innocent person is released. We shouldn’t be publicly funding any system with such an unacceptable rate of error, let alone one with such tragic and irrevocable consequences."


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In a deeply conservative Utah county, a Republican prosecutor has announced that he will no longer seek the death penalty in any of his cases, joining a growing movement of conservatives across the co