Utah judge sets execution date in 1998 murder despite concerns over a new lethal injection cocktail

A Utah judge on Monday set an August date for the execution of a man convicted in the 1998 killing of a 49-year-old woman, siding against defense attorneys concerned about a new lethal injection drug combination.

Taberon Dave Honie, 48, is set to be killed on Aug. 8 after decades of failed appeals. It’s the first public execution in Utah since Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by firing squad in 2010, according to Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson Glen Mills.

Honie’s attorney Eric Zuckerman said during a Monday court hearing that state officials only told the defense about the “experimental” drug combination on Friday, which he said didn’t leave adequate time to assess the drugs and allow Honie to make an informed decision.

Two of the three drugs proposed for Honie’s execution – the pain reliever fentanyl and potassium chloride to stop the heart – have been used previously, Mills said. But a third proposed drug, the sedative ketamine, has not been used before to Mills’ knowledge.

“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 a statement after the hearing. He asked for more information and time to consult with medical experts.

Dan Bokovoy, an attorney for the Department of Corrections, said the law didn’t require the agency to update the protocols. Daniel Boyer, of the Utah Attorney General’s office, argued that Honie had exhausted his appeal options and the judge’s duty was to sign off on the execution and set a date.

Judge Jeffrey Wilcox sided with the state, saying there was no legal reason to further delay the sentence.

“I am not prepared after hearing the arguments today to rule and say that these (lethal injection) protocols are required before this court will sign a writ of execution,” Wilcox said in court. He added that prisoners don’t have a due process right to receive the terms of their execution protocol.

But Wilcox requested that information about the administration of the drugs for the execution be provided to Honie as soon as possible.

Honie was convicted in 1999 of aggravated murder for the July 9, 1998, killing of Claudia Benn, 49.

Honie, then 22 years old, smashed through the glass patio door at Benn’s house when she was home with her three granddaughters and daughter, according to court documents. Honie cut Benn’s throat four times and police arrived at the home to find him covered in blood, according to court documents.

The use of the death penalty was effectively suspended by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 but reinstated four years later, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Since then, seven people have been executed in Utah, including four by lethal injections and three by firing squads, said Mills.

Honie’s execution will be carried out at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City, Mills said.

His failed appeals included arguments that his trial attorney hadn’t raised issues of Honie’s mental illness and substance abuse during the sentencing.

Executions under current state law in Utah are done by lethal injection, unless the drugs needed are unavailable or there’s some other reason that it can’t be carried out, Mills said. In that case, the execution can revert to a firing squad as a backup method, he said.


Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up