Senate Committee Approves Changes to Death Penalty Law

Senate Committee Approves Changes to Death Penalty Law

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(Salt Lake City-AP) -- Lawmakers took the first step this morning to bring Utah's death penalty law in line with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill which defines when a defendant is mentally retarded.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in the case of Atkins versus Virginia that executing mentally retarded murderers is unconstitutionally cruel. However, the court left it to the states to define mental retardation.

Sponsored by Ogden Republican Senator David Gladwell, the bill provides that definition, sets parameters regarding when it can be raised as a defense and determines who makes the finding during the prosecution of a case.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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