Cult leader, Ron Lafferty, who killed two in Utah loses latest appeal, may soon face firing squad

Standard Daily Herald, Utah/August 12, 2019

By Ashley Stilson

A Utah death row inmate who murdered his sister-in-law and her baby daughter more than three decades ago could be executed soon after a federal appeals court rejected another appeal on Monday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied and dismissed four claims filed by Ron Lafferty, 78, after the claims were denied by a district court in October 2017.

Lafferty argued he was misrepresented by his first trial attorneys and he should not have been found competent during his two jury trials.

"In light of the record presented, we are not persuaded that reasonable jurists could differ as to the district court's resolution of this claim," the court stated in the 18-page ruling.

The Associated Press reported Lafferty could be executed by firing squad as soon as next year, according to Utah assistant solicitor general Andrew Peterson.

Utah law allows Lafferty the choice between lethal injection or firing squad, and he reportedly chose the latter in court proceedings.

The last inmate executed by a firing squad was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010, who shot and killed a man during a robbery in 1985 in Salt Lake City.

Lafferty was sentenced to death for killing Brenda Lafferty, 24, and her 1-year-old daughter, Erica, in American Fork in 1984.

He and his brother Dan claimed they were following a revelation from God when they slashed the throats of the wife and daughter of their brother Allen. While Dan Lafferty was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, Ron Lafferty received a heavier sentence due to a judge's belief that Ron Lafferty was the mastermind of killings, according to an Associated Press report.

The men established a small cult with other brothers, with a central belief in practicing polygamy, and cited divine revelation for the murders. But prosecutors claimed Ron Lafferty was mad at the woman for helping his wife divorce him. 

He is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the state after being convicted by juries in 1988 and 1996, according to the Associated Press.

The Lafferty case gained further nationwide attention after becoming the subject of Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book "Under the Banner of Heaven," which detailed the Lafferty murders and the practice of polygamy in Utah and beyond.

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