Layton lawmaker wants deeper look at Utah death penalty costs

November  27,  2017

A legislator is proposing an in-depth study of death penalty costs so the state will have unambiguous answers at hand as Utah’s capital punishment debate continues.

A bill filed by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, for the 2018 legislative session would order research of all costs associated with the prosecution and execution of a death penalty case and an expected 25 years of appeals. The data would be compared with the costs of a capital murder convict serving life without parole.

A legislative analyst in 2012 estimated a death penalty case cost $1.6 million more. But Handy said the study was very limited and did not consider all costs. Categories for the larger proposed study would include county and state prosecution and defense costs, plus court, jail and prison expenses.

The new study “doesn’t have to be pro or con death penalty,” Handy said, “but we hear in the Legislature that we should be making data-driven decisions. Let’s find out what it really costs, so when a (death penalty) bill comes up, we will be informed.”

Handy’s proposal comes as Wasatch Front counties continue to wrestle with the costs of death row appeals, such as Doug Lovell’s ongoing battle against his sentence in the 1985 murder of Joyce Yost of South Ogden.

Lovell’s court-appointed attorney for his current death penalty appeal squabbled with the Weber County Attorney’s Office over his payments, leading him to drop from the case last summer, according to previous coverage. Sam Newton was paid $71,500 by the county to represent Lovell in 2016, according to county financial records.

Newton’s replacement, Colleen Coebergh, has a contract for $100,000 to maintain Lovell’s indigent defense.

As capital appeals continue, “There is a very high emotional cost to the families and a cost to the taxpayers,” said Dave Wilson, a Weber County deputy attorney who helps coordinate public defender contracts.

The 2012 legislative study said more than two-thirds of a death penalty case’s costs are borne by the county government.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics says 33 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons held 2,881 inmates under death sentence at the end of 2015. Utah has nine inmates on death row today, said Maria Peterson, Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

Handy said he realizes his request for a cost study may run against the grain in the capital punishment-friendly Utah Legislature, which reinstated the firing squad option for executions in 2015. Lawmakers also have rejected periodic bills that aimed to drop the death penalty.

Most law enforcement officials support the death penalty, Handy said, recalling an occasion when Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson “came at me like a house afire” during a public discussion of capital punishment.

“People who are such ardent supporters, they don’t care” about the costs, Handy said.

“But I look at it also as trying to adhere to mainstream conservatism,” Handy said. “This may not be the best use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, with the costs of education and social services growing exponentially.”

The death penalty “is certainly no deterrent,” Handy argued. He said he wonders “what purpose it has, except for payback or from a vengeance standpoint now.”

In an interview, Thompson challenged Handy’s views.

“Nobody says, ‘Gosh, I love the death penalty,’” Thompson said. “But it is important for the most egregious offenses, when lives are taken, changed forever, and people have to live without their loved ones.”

Consider Charles Manson, the sheriff said.

California prosecutors secured a death sentence against Manson, but after the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty, the cult leader lived on in prison for the murders he masterminded in 1969.

As a “moral, ethical” matter, “It would have been appropriate to have the death penalty as part of the pending punishment,” Thompson said.

“The costs associated with following through with the death penalty, in my opinion, are irrelevant,” the sheriff said.

Utah’s abbreviated review in 2012 pegged the direct cost of an execution at the Utah State Prison at $195,000. And, it said, “For every offender executed before age 76, there is a projected $28,000 savings per year.”

“There need to be some teeth in our laws for them to be effective,” Thompson said. “I truly believe the death penalty does deter, in many cases that we’ll never know.”

Utah’s Death Row

Michael Anthony Archuleta, 55, re-sentenced Dec. 21, 1989

Douglas Stewart Carter, 62, re-sentenced Jan. 27, 1992

Taberon Dave Honie, 42, sentenced May 20, 1999

Troy Michael Kell, 49, sentenced Aug. 8, 1996

Ronald Watson Lafferty, 76, re-sentenced April 23, 1996

Floyd Eugene Maestas, 60, sentenced Feb. 1, 2008

Ralph Leroy Menzies, 59, sentenced March 23, 1988

Von Lester Taylor, 53, sentenced May 24, 1991

Douglas Lovell, 59, re-sentenced May 4, 2015

Source: Utah Department of Corrections

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

November 15, 2012 http://www.sltrib.com

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.

Without the death penalty, there would be faster closure for victims’ families, he added.

And for offenders’ families.

Peggy Ostler described the pain and emotional roller coaster her parents have experienced over the more than two decades that their adopted son, Michael Archuleta, has spent on death row. Archuleta tortured, raped and murdered Gordon Ray Church, 28, in 1988. The crime was terrible, she said, and life in prison would be appropriate, but facing their son’s execution would be the “final blow” to her parents, who oppose the death penalty.

Watson agreed the legal process is too lengthy and often painful, an argument for streamlining rather than doing away with the death penalty.

For more than two decades, as they waited for justice to be carried out, Watson said he and other relatives had every “stupid” move Gardner shoved in their faces — among them, feigned illnesses and escape attempts, including one at a courthouse in 1985 where Gardner fatally shotattorney Michael Burdell and wounded bailiff Nick Kirk.

“We got to hear about it, we got to see it, we got to relive it,” said Watson, a 37-year veteran law enforcement officer.

Since Gardner’s execution, Otterstrom’s widow and son have finally been able to move on with their lives, he said.

“In my opinion, there isn’t enough money to make a difference,” Watson said.

Noriega placed framed photos of her mother Kaye Tiede, 51, and grandmother Beth Harmon Tidwell Potts, 72, on the table before her as she addressed lawmakers. Tiede had survived two husbands, both killed in automobile accidents, before marrying Rolf Tiede, Noriega said. The two built a cabin, which they called “Tiede’s Tranquility,” in Oakley as a family get-away and where they planned to spend Christmas in 1990.

Von Lester Taylor and Edward Steven Deli, who had escaped from a halfway house, broke into the cabin on Dec. 22, opened presents and waited for the family to return. Tiede, another daughter and Potts arrived first; the two women were shot and the daughter bound and gagged. Rolf Tiede and another daughter arrived next; he was shot and played dead as the two men set the cabin on fire and took off on snowmobiles with the younger daughters. Despite his injuries, Rolf Tiede managed to get help, and Taylor and Deli were captured.

Deli received a life sentence, while Taylor, identified as the shooter, was sentenced to death.

“There is no doubt that these savages did this to my family,” Noriega said, calling the 22 years of legal wrangling that has followed “shocking, a travesty.”

“It might be a lot of things, but it is not justice,” Noriega said.

The family, once so wary of danger and crime, has had to confront evil and personal responsibility in “ways I never imagined,” she added. “Our family feels the death penalty actually represents a reverence for the sanctity of the lives of the innocent.


Utah could join states allowing prisoners to donate organs

octobre 18,2012 http://www.sltrib.com

A Utah lawmaker wants to make it possible for inmates to do a final good act if they happen to die while serving time.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is again proposing a bill that would allow inmates to voluntarily agree to posthumously donate their organs. In the 2012 session, his bill passed the House but time ran out before it could be considered by the Utah Senate. The criminal justice interim committee approved the inmate medical donation act on Wednesday.

In some respects, it’s a way for someone who is trying to pay their dues to society to get one last shot on their way out,” he said in an interview.

Over the past four years, an average of 15 inmates have died each year while incarcerated, according to the Utah Department of Corrections. The department began including organ-donor consent forms in the paperwork given to inmates during orientation at the end of 2011 after speaking with Eliason about his proposal.

“They liked the idea so much they implemented it anyway even though it did not become law,” Eliason said.

Mike Haddon, Corrections deputy director, told the interim committee that inmates are being given donor forms as they go through medical and dental screenings upon arrival at the prison. He said that in the past, organ donation “was a consideration” for some inmates as they passed away.

But Eliason still wants it enshrined in statute so the policy isn’t subject to the whims of changing administrations. He said he also plans to include jails in this year’s draft legislation.

Laws governing organ donation by either living or deceased prison inmates — a population that numbers about 2 million — vary from state to state. Federal law prohibits compensating donors for organs, and that bars prisoners, like others, from benefiting in any way.

Nationwide, there are 116,000 people on the waiting list for organs; about 80 percent are waiting for a kidney, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing. There have been about 16,586 transplants so far this year, most using organs from deceased donors. In Utah, 705 people are on waiting lists for organs, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

A single healthy donor can provide up to 24 different organs and tissues — from kidneys to skin to corneas — that can help others, Eliason said.


By doing some research on the states that allow organ donation, I discovered a website called G.A.V.E (prisoner organ donation) from willing Inmates. http://www.gavelife.org/

G.A.V.E. is an organization set up to make a difference in the organ shortage in the U.S. with the help of willing and healthy volunteer prisoners.  Prisoners frequently ask to help through living kidney donations or multiple donations after execution to anyone in need.  However, they are just as frequently denied unnecessarily by prison administration and transplant authorities.

There are typically only between 10,000-15,000 donations given annually which provide organs for a small fraction of the greater than 112,000 Americans on waiting lists.  Yet inmates make up nearly 2,000,000 potential donors.  If just 1% chose to participate and were allowed to do so, this would nearly double the number of current organ donations in the U.S. While this won’t solve the problem, it will have a dramatic impact.

This site explores why donations from willing prisoners are not occurring now and advocates for a change to allow healthy and willing inmates the opportunity to save lives.

If the interested visitor finds the content and ideas of this site intriguing, meritorious, or worthy of debate, G.A.V.E. welcomes your input.  Of course, G.A.V.E. is looking for your support, but the quickest way to kindle a fire is to rub two opposing opinions together.

Utah – Michael Anthony Archuleta – execution april 5, 2012 (Stay likely)

   Michael Anthony Archuleta

Archuleta’s case

On October 25, 1988, Lance Conway Wood, newly released from the Utah State Prison, moved into the Cedar City two-bedroom apartment of his girlfriend, B. Stapely, and her roommate, P. Jones. Soon after, Michael Anthony Archuleta, also just released from prison, moved into the same apartment to be with his girlfriend, P. Jones. Wood and Archuleta had known each other in prison.

On November 21, 1988, Wood and Archuleta purchased soft drinks at a local convenience store. After adding whiskey to their drinks, the two men engaged in a conversation with Gordon Church, who was seated in his car in a nearby parking lot. Church drove Wood and Archuleta up and down Main Street and then up Cedar Canyon. After returning to Cedar City, Church left Wood and Archuleta at their apartment complex. Wood and Archuleta walked to the apartment of Anthony Sich, who lived above the apartment rented to Stapely and Jones. Wood told Sich that he was going into the mountains and asked if he could borrow a pair of gloves. Sich sent Wood to retrieve the gloves from his car, and while Wood was outside, Church returned and invited him and Archuleta to go for another drive.

Church drove Wood and Archuleta back to Cedar Canyon and pulled off the road. Wood and Archuleta exited the car first and began to walk down a path. Archuleta told Wood that he wanted to rob Church, and Wood acquiesced. Church overtook the two men, and the three continued walking up the trail. As the men started back down the trail toward the car, Archuleta grabbed Church and put a knife to his neck. Although Wood attempted to stop Archuleta by grabbing his arm, Archuleta made a surface cut on Church’s neck. Church broke free and ran, but Archuleta chased after and tackled him, again putting the knife to his neck and threatening to kill him. Archuleta cut Church’s throat again so that the two cuts formed an “X” on the front ofChurch’s neck. 

Archuleta bent Church forward over the hood of the car and, with the knife still at Church’s throat, had anal intercourse with him. At Church’s request, Archuleta used a condom. Archuleta then turned to Wood, who was standing by the trunk of the car, and asked if he “wanted any.” Wood declined. Archuleta went to the trunk of the car and opened it. He told Wood that he was looking for something with which he could bind Church. Wood removed a spare tire and a fan from the trunk, while Archuleta retrieved tire chains and battery cables. Wood remained at the rear of the car, while Archuleta returned to the front, where he wrapped the tire chains around Church. Archuleta also fastened the battery cable clamps to Church’s genitals. Wood maintained before and at trial that he removed the clamps from Church as soon as he realized what Archuleta had done.

Archuleta led Church to the rear of the car and forced him into the trunk. Wood and Archuleta replaced the spare tire and fan and drove to a truck stop near Cedar City where they purchased gas. They continued north on Interstate 15 until they reached the Dog Valley exit. They parked along a deserted dirt road where Archuleta told Wood, “You know we have to kill him.”

Archuleta removed Church from the trunk and attempted to kill him by breaking his neck. When that failed, Church suffered several blows to the head with a tire iron and a jack. The tire iron was then shoved and kicked so far into Church’s rectum that it pierced his liver. A state medical examiner testified that Church was killed by injuries to the head and skull due to a blunt force and internal injuries caused by the tire iron inserted into Church’s rectum.

Wood told police that he waited inside the car while Archuleta killed Church. Evidence adduced at trial, however, showed that Wood’s pants and jacket were splattered with blood in a cast-off pattern indicating that during the beating, Wood was within two or three feet of Church, and that Wood was facing Church when the blows were struck. A blood spot appeared on the back of Archuleta’s jacket, and Wood’s shoes bore a transfer or contact blood stain caused by contact with a bloody object. Investigators found strands of human hair consistent with Church’s hair wrapped around Wood’s shoelaces. The injuries to Church’s lower jaw were consistent with being kicked by someone wearing Wood’s shoes. Three paired lesions on Church’s back were caused by a dull-tipped instrument such as some red-handled side cutters found in the pocket of Wood’s jeans.

After Church died, Wood and Archuleta dragged his body to some nearby trees, where they covered it with branches. They swept their path with branches on the way back to the car to conceal any footprints. With Wood at the wheel, the pair again drove north on I-15. They abandoned Church’s car in Salt Lake City.

Wood called his friend C. Worsfold and asked if he and Archuleta could come to her apartment for a few minutes. When the men arrived at the apartment, Worsfold immediately noticed that Archuleta’s pants were caked with blood. Wood explained that they had been rabbit hunting the night before, their car had broken down, and they had hitchhiked to Salt Lake. The two men then went to a thrift store, where Archuleta bought some clean pants and repeated the rabbit hunting story to the store clerk.

Archuleta discarded his bloody jeans in a drainage ditch near the 45th South on-ramp to I-15 in Salt Lake County. He and Wood then went into a nearby Denny’s restaurant, where Wood left the gloves he had borrowed from Sich. After eating, the two hitchhiked as far as the Draper exit, where Archuleta pulled out Church’s wallet, scattered its contents, and handed the wallet to Wood. They next hitchhiked to Salem, where they visited Archuleta’s father. From there, they hitchhiked to Cedar City, arriving at about 11:30 p.m.

Wood immediately went upstairs to Sich’s apartment and told him about the murder. When Sich advised him to contact the police, Wood responded, “Maybe I could get some kind of federal protection.” Sich and Wood walked to a local convenience store, where Wood called B. Stapely, who was in Phoenix, and told her that Archuleta had killed someone. Stapely contacted John Graff, Wood’s parole officer, and told him to call Wood at the store. Graff called Wood and arranged to meet him at the convenience store. Just before Graff’s arrival with the police, Wood discarded Church’s wallet.

Wood and Sich accompanied Graff and a police officer to the corrections department office, where Wood recounted the events of the previous night.

The police arrested Archuleta for the murder and, after several interviews with Wood, also charged Wood with murder in the first degree, aggravated sexual assault, object rape, forcible sexual abuse, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and possession of a stolen vehicle.

feb,22, 2012,  source :http://universe.byu.edu

A death row inmate is asking a Utah judge for a stay of an April 5 execution by firing squad while he pursues a review of his state conviction and sentence in the federal courts.

Attorneys for Michael Anthony Archuleta filed a notice of his intention to file a habeas corpus petition on Feb. 10 in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court. Such requests consider whether a person’s conviction and sentence are constitutional.

Court papers say Archuleta, 49, is entitled to a stay while federal courts review the case.

Archuleta has not previously appealed his 1989 capital conviction in the federal system. Five state court appeals have been rejected, however — the last in November.A state judge signed a death warrant on Feb. 8 for Archuleta’s execution. A federal judge has not yet set a date for a hearing. The case had been filed under seal until last week.Assistant Attorney General Tom Brunker on Tuesday told The Associated Press the state does not oppose a stay of Archuleta’s execution.

Court papers filed to date by Archuleta’s attorneys do not indicate what arguments they will mount in asking the federal court to consider the case.

feb 9 2012,  source :http://www.abc4.com

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A judge has signed the execution warrant for Utah man on death row. Michael Archuleta was convicted for the brutal torture and murder of a homosexual man in 1989.

Archuleta was convicted and sentenced to death in 1989.

On Wednesday, Fourth Circuit Judge Donald Eyre ruled that Archuleta’s appeals to the U.S. and Utah supreme courts had been denied and that no state action prevented Archuleta’s execution.

The judge set Archuleta’s execution for April 5, 2012.

Archuleta had the option of choosing the manner of his execution. and picked a firing squad.

Court documents show that Archuleta and an accomplice kidnapped 28-year-old Gordon Ray Church, a Southern Utah University theater student who had confessed to being gay in 1988.

Court documents show that Archuleta and his accomplice put Church in a car trunk and drove to a remote Millard County area, where they attached jumper cables to Church’s testicles and shocked him with a car battery before raping him with a tire iron, beating him and burying him in a shallow grave.

Archuleta’s accomplice was given life sentence for his role in the murder.

news video : http://www.ksl.com

Supreme court of Utah

June 26, 1998

November 7, 2008 

November 22, 2011 

Executions scheduled april 2012

Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals

update april 27


Michael Anthony Archuleta


Stay likely



Carey Dale Grayson




Garry Allen




David Gore


         6:19 p.m  


Mark Wiles


        10:42 am  


Daniel Greene


       CLEMENCY  commuted


Shannon Johnson


        2:55 am  


Beunka Adams


         6:25 p.m  


Thomas Arnold Kemp


        10:08 a.m