The Latest: Utah lawmaker ends push to repeal death penalty

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Posted: Mar 10, 2016 11:30 PM
The Latest: Utah lawmaker ends push to repeal death penalty

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on a proposal to repeal the death penalty in Utah (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The Republican Utah lawmaker who pushed his colleagues in the conservative state to abolish the death penalty is abandoning the effort hours before a deadline to approve it.

Sen. Steve Urquhart told The Associated Press Thursday night that there wasn't enough support for the measure in the state's House of Representatives and it wouldn't get a final vote before midnight deadline.

Urquhart says he came close to getting the needed votes but enough lawmakers were on the fence that the debate would have eaten up the final hours of the legislative session.

He says that likely wouldn't win him much favor and support for the measure.

The legislators are required by law to adjourn at midnight.

Urquhart says he thinks the proposal might be brought back in future years.

9 p.m.

The brother of the last inmate to be executed in Utah shouted at state lawmakers Thursday as it appeared they might not vote on a measure to abolish the death penalty.

Randy Gardner stood above lawmakers in the House of Representatives while holding a banner featuring autopsy images of his younger brother Ronnie Lee Gardner.

Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in 2010.

His older brother was escorted by security out of the House chamber Tuesday after he shouted at lawmakers that no one had the right to do that to someone.

He later told reporters he was frustrated that it appeared legislators wouldn't vote on a measure to end capital punishment.

It was unclear if he would be arrested.

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7:45 p.m.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert still won't say if he'd veto a bill abolishing the death penalty should the measure advance to his desk.

Herbert made the comments to The Associated Press on Thursday evening as a proposal to end capital punishment awaited a final vote from the Legislature hours before a midnight deadline.

The Republican governor says he's pro-death penalty but there are legitimate arguments to be made that the punishment is costly and ineffective because inmates can spend decades appealing their sentences.

Herbert says he's a little surprised the measure has moved so far in the state's conservative Legislature but it seems that public opinion is starting to shift on the practice.

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6:45 p.m.

A Republican Utah lawmaker pushing for a repeal of the death penalty says he's working on an amended version of his proposal and still thinks lawmakers will debate and vote on it.

Sen. Steve Urquhart declined to talk further about his proposal, which made surprising strides in the state's conservative Legislature but faced an uncertain fate Thursday in the few hours lawmakers had left to approve it.

The proposal must be approved by the state House of Representatives by midnight Thursday.

A lawmaker co-sponsoring the proposal said earlier Thursday that he didn't believe it had enough votes to pass.

If passed, it moves to Gov. Gary Herbert.

Herbert, a Republican, won't say if he would sign the measure.

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3:25 p.m.

The Republican speaker of Utah's House says he suspects a bill to repeal the death penalty may not come up for a vote before lawmakers end their annual session Thursday.

Greg Hughes made the comments after the proposal was pulled from the agenda at a mid-day meeting where House Republicans discuss pending issues before taking formal action.

Hughes says he believes the sponsor of the measure, Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart, asked that lawmakers not discuss it in the GOP meeting.

Urquhart did not return a message Thursday seeking comment.

Hughes says he doesn't know for sure if the measure will come up for a final vote but says it's possible lawmakers may adjourn without considering it.

Hughes favors abolishing the death penalty but says a repeal will be tough to pass in the conservative state.

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3 p.m.

One of two Utah lawmakers sponsoring a measure to repeal the death penalty in the conservative state says he doesn't think it has enough support to pass.

Republican Rep. Eric Hutchings says about a third of the 75 members in Utah's House of Representatives are undecided on how they'd vote on the measure.

Hutchings says the remaining lawmakers are evenly divided on it.

He says he still expects legislators to debate and vote on the measure before a midnight Thursday deadline, despite one lawmaker telling reporters earlier Thursday that it would not move forward.

Republican Rep. Paul Ray, a strong supporter of capital punishment, said he believed the measure wouldn't be voted on because it didn't have enough support.

Hutchings says that's not the case.

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11:15 a.m.

Utah lawmakers are nearing their deadline to decide if they want to abolish the death penalty in the conservative state.

Thursday is the final day of the legislative session, and lawmakers have until midnight to vote.

The measure cleared a House committee by one vote Tuesday. If it passes the full House, the bill will head to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who says he hasn't decided whether he'll sign it.

The debate in the GOP-dominated Legislature comes amid a renewed national discussion about capital punishment.

A nationwide shortage of lethal-injection drugs in recent years has led several states to pass or consider laws to bring back other execution methods, such as electrocution.

Last year, Utah lawmakers voted to reinstate firing squads as a backup method to ensure the state had a way to kill death row inmates if it couldn't get lethal-injection drugs.