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Utah poised to speed up death-row appeals

Published February 17, 2011 5:14 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would streamline and speed the process for appealing death sentences.

The Senate voted 27-0 for HB202 and sent it to the governor.

The measure would allow a death-row inmate to get one post-conviction appeal during which the offender would need to raise all arguments for overturning the sentence. It would also be the only appeal in which the convict could use state-paid defense attorneys.

After that, the only way the condemned inmate could get another appeal would be if new evidence came to light that a judge believed could alter the case's outcome.

Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, a retired judge who sponsored the bill, had argued that appeals in some death sentences — such as for Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was executed last year — take far too long, up to 25 years.

"[HB202 is] designed to recognize that 25 years is too long. That's the time that was taken in the Gardner case," McIff earlier told the House. "There were four post-conviction appeals filed in the Gardner case, each one determined not to have merit, but each one adding additional years and hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars in additional expense."