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Utah Bill To Ban Death Penalty Dies

A surprising push to abolish the death penalty in deep-red Utah ran out of steam, as the Republican lawmaker shepherding the measure said he didn't have enough votes to pass it before a deadline last week.

The proposal won enough support in the GOP-dominated Legislature to be one debate and vote away from final passage, a surprising turnaround from lawmakers' vote a year ago to revive the use of firing squads in executions if lethal drugs are unavailable.

Unable to secure enough votes, State Sen. Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) abandoned the push Thursday night after briefly shopping the idea of a moratorium instead.

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The lawmaker told The Associated Press that he came very close to securing a majority of votes from the 75 members of the House of Representatives. But he said too many undecided legislators would have needed hours of convincing.

Even if it had passed, the measure faced an uncertain future with Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who supports capital punishment in extreme cases but wouldn't say if he would veto the measure.