Despite concerns about new poison cocktail, Utah judge sets execution date for 1998 murder

A judge in Utah has set an August execution date for a man convicted of murdering a 49-year-old woman in her home in 1998.

A judge in the US state of Utah on Monday set an August execution date for a man convicted in 1998 of murdering a 49-year-old woman, defying defense attorneys who raised concerns about a new drug combination used for lethal injection.

Taberon man Dave Honie, 48, is scheduled to be executed on August 8 after decades of no appeal. According to Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Glen Mills, it will be the first public execution in Utah since Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in 2010.

Honie's attorney Eric Zuckerman said during a court hearing Monday that state officials did not tell the defense about the “experimental” drug combination until Friday, which he said did not allow enough time to evaluate the drugs and allow Honie to make an informed decision.

Two of the three drugs proposed for Honie's execution – the painkiller fentanyl and potassium chloride to stop the heartbeat – have been used before, Mills said. However, a third proposed drug, the sedative ketamine, has never been used to Mills' knowledge.

“The state has not disclosed details about this novel procedure, including drug doses. And the state says it will not revise its written procedures, making it the only jurisdiction that can carry out an execution without precise written procedures,” Zuckerman said in a statement after the hearing. He asked for more information and time to consult medical experts.

Dan Bokovoy, a lawyer for the Department of Corrections, said the law does not require the department to update the records. Daniel Boyer of the Utah Attorney General's office argued that Honie had exhausted all appeals and it was the judge's job to authorize the execution and set a date.

Judge Jeffrey Wilcox sided with the state and said there was no legal reason to further delay the verdict.

“After hearing the arguments today, I am not prepared to rule and say that these (killing) protocols are required before this court will sign an execution order,” Wilcox said in court, adding that prisoners do not have a right to due process to know the terms of their execution protocol.

However, Wilcox demanded that Honie receive information about the administration of the drugs for the execution as soon as possible.

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

According to court documents, Honie, then 22, smashed through the glass patio door of Benn's house while she was home with her three granddaughters and daughter. Honie slit Benn's throat four times, and when police arrived at the house, they found him covered in blood, court documents say.

The death penalty was effectively suspended by the US Supreme Court in 1972, but reinstated four years later, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington DC

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

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

Among his failed appeals was the argument that his trial attorney failed to address Honie's mental illness and substance abuse at sentencing.

Under current law, executions in Utah are carried out by lethal injection unless the necessary drugs are unavailable or there are other reasons that make the execution impossible, Mills said. In that case, a firing squad could be used as a backup method, he said.


Bedayn is a member of 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 under-reported issues.

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