We perish because we know not… #TLENews
With lethal injection under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Utah House of Representatives on Friday approved legislation to resume executions by firing squad, which were halted in 2004.
The bill, which narrowly cleared the Republican-controlled chamber, faces uncertain prospects in the GOP-dominated Senate, and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has not said whether he would sign it into law.
The measure comes amid a shortage of execution drugs, which pharmaceutical companies are refusing to provide, and the Supreme Court’s decision last month to block three executions in Oklahoma as it reviews the three-drug cocktail the state uses to put inmates to death.
In a notorious execution last April that has focused attention on lethal injection, Oklahoma murderer Clayton Lockett writhed, groaned and struggled before being declared dead of a heart attack 43 minutes after the drugs were injected.
Gruesome accounts of prolonged or botched executions with drugs were also widely reported in Arizona and Ohio.
The Utah bill proposes firing squads as a backup if specified drugs aren’t available 30 days before an execution or if lethal injection is declared unconstitutional.
“It is never easy to talk about taking another life, but in our judicial system we have a means that requires that sometimes,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray.
He believes that using trained marksmen is faster and more humane than the needle.
“We have to have an option,” Ray said at a news conference Wednesday. “If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you’re still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?”
Until lawmakers changed the law after international criticism and media attention, condemned prisoners could choose death by firing squad.
Opponents again argue firing squads evoke crude Wild West justice and would tarnish the state’s image.
Democratic Rep. Brian King, who voted against the measure, called gunshot executions “barbaric.”
In an NBC poll after the botched Oklahoma execution, 12% backed firing squads. The most popular alternatives were the gas chamber (20%) and electric chair (18%). Only 8% endorsed hanging.
Oklahoma law also allows for firing squad — but only if lethal injection and electrocution are ruled unconstitutional.
Worldwide, firing squads are also employed to execute criminals in Indonesia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.