State lawmakers continue re-evaluating the death penalty

Photo of the New Hampshire State Capitol

We’re less than a quarter into 2018, and the movement to end the death penalty has already made major strides in state capitols around the country.

In Utah, a Republican-sponsored repeal bill passed out of a House committee for the first time ever. Two years ago, Utah came close to ending the death penalty but ran out of time before getting to the House. This year, Utah’s session was extra short, but with strong backing from conservative lawmakers and civic leaders, the state is primed and ready to take repeal the rest of the way in 2019.

Washington’s death penalty also appears to be on its last legs. The Senate voted ‘yes’ on a repeal bill and so did a House committee, leaving just one final hurdle left. But like in Utah, Washington lawmakers ran out of time before they could get the bill to the Governor’s desk. The state, however, was a veritable echo chamber of voices calling for repeal, from families of murder victims, law enforcement, newspaper editorial boards, and, recently, from Kirk Bloodsworth, who had the personal experience of being exonerated from death row. Stay tuned for what is sure to be an exciting campaign next year.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Better by halfThe Marshall Project
An interesting story from The Marshall Project about New York City: “New York City’s example shows that when the community and government work together, it is possible to have both half as much incarceration and twice as much safety.”

Killing Dylann Roof Wouldn’t Help Racial InjusticeTime
Next week, jury selection begins in Dylann Roof’s federal trial. Executing Roof will not rid us of the racism that fueled him and will not make the death penalty less racially biased.

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Recommended: Death penalty repeal gains momentum in Utah

State of Utah Capitol BuildingUtah Senators approved legislation to repeal the death penalty last night by a vote of 20-9!

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Senator Steve Urquhart, used to support the death penalty. Just last year, he joined most of his Republican colleagues (only 5 of the 29 Senators in Utah are Democrats) in a vote to bring back the state’s firing squad. Now, Senator Urquhart is leading the charge against the death penalty.

Read about Senator Urquhart’s quest for repeal in the Washington Post, which also features Marc Hyden, coordinator of EJUSA’s national project, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

Read the Salt Lake Tribune story about yesterday’s vote.

Photo credit: “State of Utah Capitol Building” by vxla. CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.