A visibly upset Attorney General Mark Shurtleff left the House Thursday morning after representatives shot down a constitutional amendment that would streamline the post-conviction death penalty appeals process.
The citizens of Utah don't know how fortunate they are that this proposed policy was defeated. The proposed amendment to the state constitution would have limited anyone convicted of a crime to just one appeal. The impact of this radical change would have been a significant increase in the number of wrongful convictions. If a defendant cannot prove that he or she is not guilty at trial, how are they supposed to accomplish this feat while incarcerated after having lost the presumption of innocence after the conviction?
The proposed amendment is also contrary to the purpose of constitutions - the limitation of the power of the state. This proposed amendment would have taken away a right that should be available to every person accused of a crime.
Instead of trying to curb the appeal process ( which has been tried and failed in the past), why not analyze the reasons for the appeals and fix those problems? But instead, the Utah Attorney General and his supporters what to shut off the appeals process instead of advocating for solutions to the issues that are at the root of the appeals - ineffective counsel, misconduct by prosecutors, judges, police, jurors, and witnesses, and denial of due process. Funding indigent defense at a rate equivalent to resources available to prosecutors would go a long way in alleviating the appeals process. The result would be a cost savings, greater confidence in the legitimacy of the sentence, and less anxiety for the victims' families and friends.