‘The clock is ticking’: Utah plans to execute first death row inmate since 2010

By: Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch

Utah is preparing to execute its first death row inmate since 2010, after a judge signed a death warrant for 48-year-old Taberon Honie on Monday.

Honie’s execution is scheduled for just after midnight on Aug. 8 by lethal injection at the Utah State Prison, with the state planning to use a combination of ketamine, fentanyl and potassium chloride.

“The clock is ticking,” said Glen Mills, communications director for the Utah Department of Corrections, on Tuesday during a news conference.

Honie was convicted in 1999 for sexually assaulting then murdering 49-year-old Claudia Benn, the mother of his ex-girlfriend. According to court documents, Benn’s three grandchildren were inside the home at the time.

Utah’s 5th District Court Judge Jeffrey Wilcox signed the warrant on Monday, rejecting arguments from Honie’s attorneys that the lethal cocktail the state plans to use is “experimental.”

Honie is challenging the proposed method in a case pending before the Utah Supreme Court, and Mills on Tuesday acknowledged there could be “circumstances that could delay” the execution.

Honie could also request a clemency hearing, which Mills said would have to come within seven days after the warrant was signed. But as of now, the state is moving forward with its plan.

“We are going to proceed as though this is going to take place on Aug. 8,” he said.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Honie’s attorney Eric Zuckerman explained his concerns over the lethal injection.

“The state has not provided any details about this novel procedure, including the drug doses. And the state says it will not revise its written procedures, making it the only jurisdiction to move forward with an execution without accurate written procedures,” Zuckerman said.

In response to the attorney’s concerns, Mills defended the state’s decision.

“We’ve worked with our medical professionals who are confident that the drug combination … will be equally or more effective,” he said.

The last inmate executed in Utah was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. Gardner was sentenced to death in 1985 for shooting Michael Burdell, an attorney, and wounding Nick Kirk, a bailiff, in a failed attempt to escape from court, where he was already facing another murder charge.

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