Utah Department of Corrections says it now has drugs to carry out a death sentence

Posted at 1:26 PM, Jun 07, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Corrections said Friday it has now acquired the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection execution.

The agency said it had obtained ketamine, fentanyl and potassium chloride ahead of a Monday hearing where a judge is being asked to sign a death warrant to execute Taberon Honie.

"Ketamine serves as an anesthetic, Fentanyl relieves pain, and Potassium Chloride stops the heart," the agency said in a statement.

It is a departure from what is traditionally used in executions and is likely to trigger its own round of litigation as Honie and another inmate, Ralph Leroy Menzies, face execution. Utah law allows for sodium thiopental "or other equally or more effective substance sufficient to cause death," corrections officials said.

Under Utah law, if the state does not have the chemicals required to carry out a lethal injection execution — the default method becomes firing squad. Until recently, the Utah Department of Corrections repeatedly told FOX 13 News it did not have the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection execution.

Honie has exhausted his appeals and faces a death sentence for the 1998 sexual assault and murder of Claudia Benn, the mother of his then-girlfiend. He was convicted of slitting her throat inside her Cedar City home in front of her grandchildren.

Menzies is facing execution for the 1986 kidnapping and murder of Maurine Hunsaker. His lawyers are now arguing that he may have dementia, which could block his execution. A judge has scheduled a series of mental health evaluations.

Both men are plaintiffs in a lawsuit by a group of death row inmates challenging Utah's capital punishment laws and the methods of execution. A judge rejected their lawsuit, but their lawyers said they will appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.