ACLU of Utah files federal lawsuit over use of tear gas in prison’s mental health unit

From: Salt Lake Tribune, June 3rd 2013:

ACLU of Utah says gas used in mental-health unit to subdue prisoner spread to enclosed cells.

By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune, Jun 03 2013

The ACLU of Utah filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging constitutional rights of inmates housed in the mental-health unit at the Utah State Prison were violated when tear gas used to subdue one inmate spread into other enclosed cells.

Correctional officers fired tear gas on Aug. 3, 2011, after one inmate refused to return to his cell from a courtyard, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Utah. The gas was pumped through air vents into the fully enclosed cells of other inmates, causing burning eyes, lungs and skin. Many inmates thought the wing was on fire.

Read the rest here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56406088-78/inmates-complaint-gas-prison.html.csp

Disability Law Center Sues Prison Over Inmate Access

From: Salt Lake City News Blog
Dec 7th 2012
by Stephen Dark

When attorney Aaron Kinikini went to see his client at the Utah State Prison, warden Alfred Bigelow refused him access. Now, Kinikini is suing the Draper prison to let him meet with an inmate.
Suing on behalf of inmate Jeremy Haas, the Disability Law Center has filed a civil-rights action against Bigelow and Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson—who today announced that he’ll resign from his post in January—along with a temporary-restraining-order motion seeking Kinkin’s immediate access to Haas. 
Haas was one of four inmates with mental-health diagnoses being held in solitary confinement who City Weekly featured in a story called “Lost in the Hole” in late September.
The lawsuit stems from a Sept. 14, 2012, visit to the prison by Kinikini and fellow DLC attorney Laura Boswell to meet with Haas over concerns about his treatment in the prison. Under federal statute, according to the lawsuit, DLC can conduct abuse and neglect investigations in the prison.
But Bigelow refused Kinikini access because he had two misdemeanor convictions on his record, namely a possession and a DUI charge dating back from 2008. When the attorneys asked what was the legal basis for not letting Kinikini in, given that he was licensed to practice law by the Utah State Bar and the Utah Supreme Court, Bigelow told them, according to the lawsuit, “that he was merely enforcing an ‘unwritten practice’ of USP and the Utah Department of Corrections.” 
Prison PIO Steve Gerhke said that, per prison policy, the UDC does not comment on pending litigation.
While attorney Boswell was allowed to visit with Haas and see his living conditions, Kinikini, who was selected by Haas to represent him, sat outside in the parking, awaiting her return. Barring Haas access to his attorney violated his constitutional rights, the DLC motion argues.
The lawsuit hypothesizes that Bigelow barring Kinikini, a protege of recently deceased civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, reflected an apparently “unwritten” regulation designed to deter inmates from being visited by people who might pose a security risk.
“When applied to Haas and his attorney, Kinikini, this practice is nothing more than an exaggerated, possibly discriminatory, response to generic prison-security concerns,” the lawsuit stated.

“Waiting For The World To Give Us A Reason To Live”: Solitary Confinement in Utah

From: SolitaryWatch, Oct. 24th, 2012
By Sal Rodriguez

Utah State Prison’s Uinta 1 facility serves as the prison’s super-maximum security unit, where inmates are held in solitary confinement. Inmates in Uinta 1 may be there for disciplinary infractions, notoriety reasons, protective custody, or because they are security/escape risks. The unit is divided into eight sections with twelve inmates in each section, for a total of 96 maximum inmates. Currently, there are 90 inmates in Uinta 1. The Utah Department of Corrections, in response to a government records request by Solitary Watch, claims it has no records regarding its use of segregation.

Several inmates have recently written Solitary Watch about the conditions in Uinta 1.

L., who has been in Uinta 1 for five months and previously served 28 months there, reports that he is only able to leave his cell three days a week, for a shower and 1 hour alone in a concrete yard. He reports that, in being transported to a 15 minute shower, “we have to wear a spit mask over our faces and handcuffed from behind with a dog leash hooked to us.”

“The rest of the time except on the shower days we are locked down in our cells with the door window closed so you can’t see out,” he writes.

A., who has been in Uinta 1 for a year, adds that, “just the other day, the [Correctional Officers] came and shook our cells down and took away all of our hygiene. They took away shampoo, lotion, conditioner, everything…they also don’t give us anything to clean our cells with.”

A. is in Uinta 1 for his own protection, following what he says was a decision to leave gang life after much “self-study.” Despite this, he says, he is treated as if he committed a  serious offense.

Inmate Brandon Green, who has frequently written on the conditions of Uinta 1, describes the environment in Uinta 1 as reinforcing a vicious cycle in which inmates placed in solitary usually end up back not long after they are released. Green, who has been in Uinta 1 for five years, previously served 18 months in Uinta 1 before a brief period on parole before returning to Utah State Prison. He has been held in Uinta 1 following an escape attempt and refusal to take psychiatric drugs, which he says will only harm his health.

“So alone. So much internal turbulence with nothing like T.V., radio, magazines or conversation to hide [this pain] beneath,” he writes, “a man leaves this place to go to general population or to a less secure facility where you have electronics and a cellie. You can just count down the months before he will return…We learn we can do without anything. And we become content with nothing. The more they take away from us year after year, the more family disappears, the more one doesn’t want to go home, doesn’t want a wife and a job and bills and an Amerikkan future…It is like waiting for the world to give us a reason to live. But the world just keeps giving us reasons to not give a shit.”

This situation leads many inmates to report severe mental health problems that are aggravated by the long-term isolation. The prison routinely responds to such crises by placing suicidal inmates in a strip cell, where they are to be alone in a cell with  and checked every fifteen minutes. Included in many of these cells are cameras.

L. writes that “if someone is gonna kill themselves they take them and out to a strip cell and you sleep on the hard floor and treated like a dog.”

A. reports that “if I lose control because of something I have no control over, they’ll punish me and put me on strip cell for three days…when a mentally ill inmate feels suicidal, they send us to the infirmary to be on suicide watch…then we get from suicide watch back to Uinta 1 and the staff put us back in the strip cell when we get back to Uinta 1.”

In Uinta 1, suicide is not an uncommon occurrence. In 2009, two prisoners in Uinta 1 committed suicide. One was Danny Gallegos, who was found hanged in his cell in June. Another was a friend of Green, Spencer “Spider” Hooper, a “Pink Floyd fan and singer on medications for schizophrenia and depression.” Months after a previous suicide attempt, Hooper was found dead in February 2009, hanging in his cell.

A. and L. also independently confirm that sandbags at the cell doors of inmates gather bugs, which enter their cells. “They got sandbags around all the cells but never pick them up and clean under them so there’s all kinds of bugs and dirt that comes right under our doors,” A. writes.

Green also writes about the declining array of services provided to Uinta 1 inmates. “Years ago indigent captives received five envelopes a week. Now its one. We had five outside contacts a week. Now one. We used to be fed enough to stay full. Now we are starved. We used to have shampoo and lotion. Now we don’t. We grumble for an hour each time something is taken from us. Then move right along to inventing the creative willpower to survive with no penpals and mail, a full stomach or clean hair. Moving right along. We expect tragedy.”

Solitary Watch will continue to report on Uinta 1 as more information becomes available.

Brandon Green welcomes letters. His mailing address is:
Brandon Green #147075, Uinta One 305, Utah State Prison, PO Box 250, Draper, Utah 84020. His blog, updated by an outside supporter, can be seen here.

Voices from Solitary: From the Vortex of Uinta One

From: Solitary Watch
June 14th 2012

The following comes to Solitary Watch from inmate Brandon Green at Utah State Prison, Draper’s Uinta One facility. The facility currently holds 91 inmates in solitary confinement, including the state’s death row. Green has been in isolation for five years, after a brief period released from prison before being rearrested.  He has been corresponding with Solitary Watch since February, and has been a prolific writer, chronicling his harrowing experience in isolation. He has described his situation, and the challenge of expressing his situation, this way: “I told my cousin that it’s like he and everyone
out on the street is building a life, a “house,” while we sit holding up the roof to our past “houses” as it slowly just crumbles. How does one who is busy building understand how it is to just sit and hold up a roof? They can’t.” The following is a sampling of his writings. –Sal Rodriguez

Where to begin? How to begin? One fellow captive described Uinta One as a vortex. It just keeps sucking you in. My first experience of solitary was in 2004. I was around 21 years of age. I was put in a shower in handcuffs as they searched my cell and I slipped handcuffs from behind my back to the front, then was unable to put them back when ordered to. Thus solitary. My first taste.

I remember crying a lot at first. At night mostly, as the night crept up on me. My neighbors would want my cookies from my white sacks. And they offered all these colorful pills. “Green to sleep, red to wake up,” they’d say. So I fished off my cookies under my door to my neighbor so I could sleep instead of cry.

I remember paroling in 2006 after I’d done two stints in solitary. My mom picked me up and just to hear the music on the radio gave me cold chills. Being so long without music. Mom took me to a restaurant and we
sat down to eat. I got nervous because of all the people, hopped up, went to the car and waited for her as I listened to music. I sat paranoid looking in the mirrors at all these people coming and going from their cars to stores and back. I felt like…like a bad guy. Outlaw. That no one will know what it was like to sit alone for so long with just my thoughts.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining my moms “just cried out face” as she hopped back in the car and drove us home. “How could he,” she probably thought “after all that time. Does he hate me?”
“How could she,” I thought, “after years of eating all alone, how could she not know I’d be nervous.”

Neither understanding. Both blaming the other while feeling guilty ourselves.

It’s been almost five years since we’ve spoken.

I sit going on five years straight in the hole. A sound of buzzing comes from my exhaust vent because I place a piece of paper there to create sound. My door is plugged off, with white sacks, except for a small place at the bottom to allow air and mail. I go through these periods of extreme abdominal pains, blood shot eyes, dizziness because of my Hepatitis-C. I’ve not shaved or had a haircut for almost five years. I do not leave my cell unless guards do a search or I get blood tests for my disease.

My knee is pulled because of overexercise and pacing. To pace, then turn, then pace, then turn, really screws up the knees after a while.

We have these sandbags surrounding our doors so we cannot fish. Bugs get trapped under these and set up little colonies and infiltrate our cells. Most of these toilets do not flush correctly and most cell toilets stink with green moss inside the bowls. Most air vents are clogged and one can taste the city exhaust smoke as one chews ones carrots.

Just this week, a captive was antagonized by a guard. The captive requested mental health. Was laughed at (at his door and over the cell electronic speaker). He snapped, took all his “fish oil” medications, pulled his cell sprinkler then proceeded to swallow the metal sprinkler.
He’s been gone days. Probably in section four–suicide watch.

Section one is death row. Sections two and three are general hole, intensive management unit. Section four is suicide watch with an officer in section 24/7 with 15 minute checks. All other sections have hourly checks.

Uinta One tortures 96 people in all. 8 sections of 12 a piece.
We cannot see out our doors into the sections because of a metal window flap that is clipped on. Month back someone swallowed a window clip.

Some captives have been known to stuff shampoo bottles up their ass. Shove staples in their penis. Head butt the walls. Bite holes in their wrists with their teeth. Cut out veins with fingernails–I’m guilty of that one.

No phone calls since April 2008. No radio, T.V., magazines, visits, sunshine. Here in Uinta One we are handcuffed behind the back, dogleashed, pillow-case over the head, shackled, taken to and from shower every Tues, Thurs, Saturday. It’s degrading.

Trust me

Waking up to a nosebleed
Falling Asleep in a nightmare
Growing old minus the growing up
Adolescent at almost thirty
Buried in Cement
Pig mindgames, taxpayers hate, facial hair
Cant kill yourself because they watch
Camera mounted up in the corner
Razor cut scars on inside of elbow
Brain damage, swollen liver, tired heart
Does the crazy man know he’s crazy
Dead people don’t know they’re dead
Do those who hate me count as family
Those who can’t trust me don’t count as friends
King James! Version of the Holy Bible
Verses one of his slaves’ version of peoples liberation
White nation labor aristocrats bought off by King
Off with their heads–Away with their playthings
Give them cowards three meals and smelly mattress
Flatscreen TVs
Tuned 24/7 to the new
Revolutionary TV
Lynch mob soda repackaged justice soda
Law and order on can
Inside a caffeinated Jim Crow
Flavored with a War on Drugs
AKA PIG social control quota
Waking up to the nightmare
Falling asleep to the mindwash
Old man at almost thirty buried in cement
Growing old without the giving up

Voices from Solitary: “The Isolated Prisoner”

From: SolitaryWatch
February 18, 2012
by Sal Rodriguez

The following poem comes from an inmate at Utah State Prison’s Draper supermax unit. Initially convicted of a non-violent drug offense, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison, he has been held in isolation for more than three years. He is also corresponding for an upcoming Solitary Watch article on the practice of solitary confinement in Utah. He is held in his cell 46 hours and 45 minutes straight before being allotted 75 minutes to shower and use the phone…

Isolated tension so thick you can see it, feel it when you walk into our section, or hear it if you stop and pay attention.

Intense anger and open fury evoked by constant frustration. Hidden cries and silent tears from hopes of false delusions.

Shattered dreams and broken promises from Men who played against reality, or some just out here on some type of adversity.

Still, the outcome is the same, a cell designed for my undeclared torture, for an inconceivable amount of time intended deep within the future.

Forty-six hours in a single cell with the very minimal needs given, while my sanity and well-being is constantly in a struggle of being taken.

Suffering from the hands of time that seem to never turn, while anticipating some type of unfulfilling yearn.

Sentenced to this heinous life like a chaotic scream! Stranded in a prison within a prison, designed with immorality.

Death no solution – SLC Tribune Editorial

June 25th Editorial
Salt Lake City Tribune

As a family member of a murder victim I always pay attention to the legal wrangling and appeals of convicted killers. I read death penalty pros and cons and listen to descriptions of executions.

For 25 years, the man who murdered my mother has been on death row in California. The attorney general’s office there used to call me yearly to report on the appeals process. So many years of waiting for the sentence to be carried out does not leave me with any kind of closure. I would have closure already if he had just been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
This man also has two children. When I saw the daughter of Ronnie Lee Gardner interviewed, I felt sad. That was her father being put to death. She now will also suffer permanent loss.
The death of my mother’s murderer will not bring her back; my children will still not know their grandmother. But the family of the convicted murderer will lose someone. The State of California, like the State of Utah, will have committed an act that resolves nothing, took 25 years, and unnecessarily cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
Beth Dunford
Park City

Prison Officials Investigating Stabbing

http://pandora.bonnint.net/video/embed-p.php?id=11012481

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

June 2nd, 2010 @ 3:12pm
By Nicole Gonzales
Ksl.com
DRAPER — An inmate who was stabbed several times at the Utah State Prison in Draper Wednesday morning is now recovering in a local hospital.

The Utah Department of Corrections says this was inmate-on-inmate crime, and they say they’re still looking into why it happened.

Around 11:30 a.m., prison officials say one prisoner stabbed another inside an area of the prison called the Uinta Unit. Apparently, a male inmate in his 30s was stabbed several times in the back and legs, near his cell.

“We got some information somehow that this stabbing had occurred, multiple stab wounds,” said Steve Gehrke, Department of Corrections spokesman. “They were able to stabilize him in the infirmary, stop the bleeding, and then he was transported to the University Medical Center.”

The man was taken to the hospital by ambulance in stable condition.

Officers aren’t sure who is responsible for the stabbing. They are also still investigating what kind of weapon was used and how it got into the prison facility.

Gehrke says visitors will still be allowed in the prison Wednesday; there is no lockdown.
“They are restricting movement in the area where it happened,” Gehrke said. “It happened in the Uintas, so it’s over in that area and they’re restricting movement there.”

Corrections officials say they will be conducting interviews all day to try to determine exactly what happened.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

Prisoner Stable After Stabbing

Deseret News

UTAH STATE PRISON — An inmate at the Utah State Prison was in stable condition in a Salt Lake City hospital after being stabbed multiple times Wednesday.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, is an inmate in the medium-security Uinta complex and was stabbed about 11:30 a.m., near his cell, said Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke.

He was taken to the prison infirmary where doctors were able to stop the bleeding before transporting him to a Salt Lake hospital, he said.

The prisoner was stabbed by his cellmate, who used a sharpened piece of metal in the attack, according to the Unified Police Department. Both the victim and the attacker were uncooperative with investigators Wednesday and no motive for the attack was known.

— Pat Reavy

Judge denies stay of execution for Gardner

Written by: Dan Metcalf Jr.
Email: dan.metcalf@abc4.com
ABC4.com

A judge denied a stay of execution for Ronnie Lee Gardner on Tuesday.

Third District Court judge Robin Reese denied the motion after hearing arguments last week.

Gardner is scheduled to executed by firing squad on June 18th.

An death sentence appeal for Gardner will be heard in the Utah Supreme Court next week.

Gardner was convicted for killing a lawyer during a court house escape attempt in 1985.

Copyright 2010 Newport Television LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Gardner’s Date With Firing Squad Revives Talk of Mormon Blood Atonement

Wild West? Gardner’s date with firing squad revives talk of a Mormon ‘teaching’ that refuses to die.

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 05/21/2010 04:41:01 PM MDT

After convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner announced last month his intention to be executed by firing squad, national and international reporters suggested it was a throwback to the wild, wild West.

Some Utahns, though, had a different explanation for why such an anachronistic execution technique remained an option in the 21st century: blood atonement.

The term refers to an arcane LDS belief that a murderer must shed his own blood — literally — to be forgiven by God. Since Mormon pioneers first entered the valley in 1847 until today, most of Utah’s formal executions (until recent decades) have been by firing squad, which is a lot bloodier than hanging or lethal injection.

When Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, began proposing elimination of the firing-squad option in the late 1990s, the LDS Church itself did not object. Yet talk of blood atonement percolated “in quiet, backroom discussions,” she recalls. “A couple of people in prominent positions said to me, ‘We’ve got to have blood atonement.’ “

By 2004, Allen says, all mention of the Mormon concept “just went away” and the measure passed.

The LDS Church disavows any connection to blood atonement, says spokesman Scott Trotter. “[It] is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people.”

The firing-squad option soon may be history, thanks to the Allen-led ban, but the mythic appeal of a bloody death as payment for sin persists in some Mormon quarters.

Even Gardner, who still could choose the firing squad for his scheduled June 18 execution because his original sentencing preceded the law change, told the Deseret News in 1996 that he would sue for the right to die that way.

“I guess it’s my Mormon heritage,” he told the paper.

Blood atonement has played a role in books about the 1977 execution of Gary Gilmore, in Jon Krakauer’s look at Mormonism and violence, in discussions of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, even in this year’s finale of HBO’s “Big Love.”

Just two years ago, defense attorneys for accused murderer Floyd Maestas, who is not LDS, asked prospective jurors if they were familiar with blood atonement and, if so, what it meant to them. The issue never came up at trial, and Maestas was convicted and sentenced to die by lethal injection.

If the LDS Church doesn’t preach blood atonement and the firing squad is virtually finished, why, then, does the notion linger in public and private conversations across the state and on the screen?

The answer may lie in history, symbolism and salvation.
Out of the past » As a young Mormon in Salt Lake City, legal scholar Martin R. Gardner heard adults attribute their support of capital punishment to this idea of blood atonement. As an LDS missionary in England in the late 1960s, he had a pamphlet, penned by the future Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, that described and defended the teaching.

“It was always around in the popular consciousness,” Gardner says in a phone interview from the University of Nebraska Law School, where he teaches criminal law.

In a 1979 article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Gardner traced the teaching to Brigham Young, who believed even Christ’s atoning sacrifice for humanity could not cover some sins, including murder, apostasy and egregious sexual misbehavior.
“There are transgressors,” Young said in an 1856 sermon, “who, if they knew themselves, and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke thereof might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them.”

Those sentiments were replayed often by the Mormon prophet and his two counselors in the governing First Presidency, Jedediah M. Grant and Heber C. Kimball, during the 1850s, “a period of intense Mormon revivalism bordering on fanaticism,” Gardner wrote in Dialogue .

The three also were key players in creating Utah’s first capital-punishment law in 1851, which offered killers the choice of being shot, hanged or beheaded (another blood-shedding option).

Perhaps the most famous execution was that of LDS Bishop John D. Lee, shot by firing squad in 1877 for his involvement in the 1857 slaughter of 120 men, women and children known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Lee, who clearly believed in blood atonement, according to historian Ronald W. Walker, sat on his coffin and said to the sharp shooters, “Center my heart, boys. Don’t mangle my body.”

In 1888, the Utah Territorial Legislature eliminated beheading but adopted similar language that remained state law until 1980, when lethal injection replaced hanging.

The firing squad remained.

Modern times » In one of Utah’s most notorious murder cases, Mormon Mark Hofmann forged dozens of LDS documents and, fearing discovery, killed two people with homemade pipe bombs in 1985.

Before Hofmann confessed, his father suggested that if guilty, his son would have to pay with his blood. Hofmann escaped the death penalty by pleading guilty to lesser charges and remains in prison.

Several years later, convicted child-killer Arthur Gary Bishop, who had been an Eagle Scout and Mormon missionary, worried about the state of his soul and whether salvation required his blood be spilled. Bishop consulted Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the LDS First Presidency and later the church president, who assured him that the method of execution made no difference to his place in the hereafter.

Hinckley said that blood atonement ended with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, according to sociologist L. Kay Gillespie, who described the exchange in The Unforgiven , a history of Utah’s executions.

Still, Bishop said in a letter written before his June 10 death by lethal injection that his refusal to fight his execution was a “necessary requirement because of my past heinous crimes.”

In 1994, attorneys for condemned child-killer James Edward Wood in Pocatello, Idaho, argued that his defense was undermined by a visit from local LDS leaders who talked to him about shedding his own blood. Wood, a Mormon, was sentenced to death after pleading guilty to abducting, murdering and then later sexually molesting and dismembering 11-year-old Jaralee Underwood.

In response to the defense’s allegations, the LDS First Presidency filed a document in an Idaho court denying the doctrine as it has been popularized. The church’s affidavit included a copy of a 1978 letter from LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie to University of Utah law student Thomas McAfee, outlining the church’s position.

The Utah-based church supported capital punishment, the apostle wrote, but denied that blood atonement had anything to do with it.

Early church leaders’ statements about blood atonement “pertain to a theoretical principle that has been neither revealed to nor practiced by us,” wrote McConkie, who died in 1985. “I have never in over 60 years of regular church attendance heard a single sermon on the subject or even a discussion in any church class.”

Today, the LDS Church is neutral on the death penalty.

In the Mormon psyche » The symbolism of blood atonement mirrors the Christian story of Jesus’ death on the cross as a ransom for all humanity.

The 19th-century Mormon pioneers added an emphasis on self-sacrifice for sin as a way to appease an angry God, says Levi Peterson, a Mormon novelist and retired Weber State University professor of English. It may have particularly appealed to the settlers, who were coping with a bloody and death-filled era.

Mormon doctrine was “full of promised blessings for the obedient, blessings which were not forthcoming as the Saints were driven from pillar to post,” says Peterson, who now lives in Issaquah, Wash. “An obverse logic took over: The Saints were obviously remiss in their duties; they deserved to suffer; the quickest way back to divine favor was to inflict more suffering on themselves.”

Their approach, he says, would be similar to that of Roman Catholics during the Middle Ages in the aftermath of the plague, which decimated Europe. Religious orders in which members would flog themselves as penance “arose to deal with the psychological effect of the terrible scourge.”

The idea of self-punishing was central to the “guilt I inherited or felt in the people around me,” says Peterson, who was reared in a small Mormon community in northern Arizona. “We believed in a severe God who didn’t forgive easily. You had to pay with some kind of pain.”

Blood atonement also figured in Peterson’s novel The Backslider , when one character’s throat is cut to atone for his homosexual behavior and the protagonist considers killing himself for his continued sexual sins.

In 2010, these ideas may seem foreign to most members of the nearly 14 million-member LDS Church as it has moved far from its rural Utah roots, says Gardner, the Nebraska law professor and a member of his LDS stake’s high council. “I just don’t think people are aware of [blood atonement] anymore.”

pstack@sltrib.com