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Opinion: Do not abolish the death penalty

The best argument for keeping it is that it can be used to entice defendants to plead guilty to a lesser charge, saving taxpayers time and money

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The Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City.

The Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Recently, the county attorneys for Salt Lake, Utah, Summit and Grand counties jointly called on the state of Utah to repeal the death penalty in our state. Most of their arguments for doing so appear to me to be not only disingenuous but also duplicitous.

They argue that the death penalty should be repealed because it is so seldom used, takes an inordinate length of time to implement and is exorbitantly expensive. The argument is disingenuous because they and their ilk are in fact the cause of all of these factors. For most of the last century, those who oppose the death penalty have categorically opposed every use of capital punishment and have used every possible means of delay and to drive up the cost.

They argue that capital punishment is not a deterrent to murder. But again, it is their own actions that minimize any possibility of deterrence. Deterrence is only effective if an imposed penalty is believable and certain.

The same can be said of their arguments regarding re-traumatization of the families of murder victims.

The very best possible argument for keeping the death penalty on the books is found in a news report from nydailynews.com, dated Sept. 18 from San Diego, California. Reportedly, John T. Earnest, the man who on April 20, 2019, shot up the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Los Angeles, killing one person, appeared in federal court in San Diego, where he pled guilty to 113 charges. He had previously pled guilty to multiple charges in state courts in connection with the same killing. Reportedly, he pled guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.

Having pled guilty, this man saved the people unknown millions of dollars in trial and appeal costs. And he removed any likelihood of the re-traumatization of the victims and their families by doubt and delay.

If avoidance of the death penalty is an incentive for the most egregious offenders to plead guilty, then it is certainly worth keeping.

Thomas W. Brown