Honie asks Utah pardons board to commute his death sentence

Death row inmate Taberon Honie is asking the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently scheduled to be executed on Aug. 8.

Death row inmate Taberon Honie is asking the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently scheduled to be executed on Aug. 8. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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MURRAY — Taberon Dave Honie, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Aug. 8, is asking the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Attorneys for Honie, 48, of Cedar City, filed a petition for commutation late Friday. The Utah Attorney General's Office has until this coming Friday to file a response. The five-member board of pardons will then vote whether to grant Honie a hearing. If he is granted a hearing, it would likely happen in late July.

The board must make a final decision whether to commute Honie's sentence before the scheduled Aug. 8 execution date.

In their 45-page petition, attorneys for Honie argue he "has always taken responsibility for and expressed remorse" for his actions. They also argue that Honie suffered "multiple traumatic events" throughout his childhood that were never sufficiently conveyed to the jurors who sentenced him to death.

"The synergistic effects of Mr. Honie's traumatic background, brain damage, long-standing substance abuse, and extreme intoxication affected his behavior at the time of the crime," the petition states.

Honie was convicted in Iron County's 5th District Court of sexually assaulting and killing his ex-girlfriend's mother, Claudia Benn, in front of her three grandchildren on July 9, 1998. His death sentence has been upheld in numerous legal appeals over the years. On June 10, a judge signed an execution warrant for Honie.

"Mr. Honie has always expressed genuine remorse and sadness for the death of Ms. Benn from the moment he was arrested until the present," his petition states. It also notes that Honie has remained close to Benn's daughter, "who testified at trial that she would be satisfied with a sentence of life without parole."

"Mr. Honie has been incarcerated on Utah's death row for nearly 25 years, during which he has demonstrated that he is not a risk of danger to others and can live productively and positively, being a source of support for others and being of use through his work for the prison. The modern justifications for the use of the death penalty, deterrence and retribution, will not be served by taking his life," the petition argues. "Mr. Honie stands before (the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole) asking that you grant him mercy and commute his sentence of death to life without parole."

The petition goes into detail about how Honie, who is Hopi-Tewa, was raised on a mesa on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. His home did not have running water or working toilets until 1982 and his parents were alcoholics, the petition states.

Taberon Dave Honie is asking the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his death sentence. He is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 8.
Taberon Dave Honie is asking the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to commute his death sentence. He is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 8. (Photo: Utah State Prison)

"Mr. Honie's childhood was marked by neglect, violence and chaos," according to the petition. "Mr. Honie has a long history of alcohol and drug abuse and depression beginning when he was a child."

Attorneys for Honie also argue that jurors who handed down his death sentences were never informed of how extremely intoxicated he was at the time of the murder.

On Tuesday, the board held a press conference to help the public better understand what will happen with the commutation process. Once the state files its response to the petition, "The board will then review the petition and response to determine whether a substantial issue exists that has not been addressed in the judicial process," said Jennifer Yim, the board's administrative director. "The board shall not consider legal or constitutional issues that a) have been reviewed by the courts; b) should have been raised during the judicial process; or c) present new issues that are subject to judicial review."

If a hearing is granted, Honie will have the opportunity to have witnesses give testimony. Yim says it is the board's understanding that Honie will speak at the hearing if given the chance. Victims will also be given an opportunity to speak.

The last commutation hearing the board held was in 2010 for Ronnie Lee Gardner. But despite agreeing to hear Gardner's arguments, his commutation petition was denied and he was executed by firing squad.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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