*** UPDATE:  On March 23, 2015, Utah became the only state in the U.S. to allow firing squads as a means of execution.  Gov. Gary Herbert signed the controversial law approving the use of firing squads, which he himself called “gruesome” when lethal injection drugs are not available.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said the bill makes the state “look backward and backwoods.”  The measure’s approval is the latest development in capital punishment states’ frustration over botched executions and difficulty in obtaining lethal injection drugs.  Several states are seeking new forms of capital punishment in the wake of several botched executions, the problem is that they are looking at far more controversial practices, including electrocution.  States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories and to come up with new equally as Constitutional formulas as manufacturers have come out as opposed to capital punishment due to the Hippocratic Oath.  Many states have passed secrecy laws in order to shield the source of their drugs.  Others have turned to compounding pharmacies.   ***  (Source:  USA Today)

Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, could bring back the practice of firing squad executions because the state cannot find constitutionally approved lethal injection drugs. The Republican-controlled Legislature gave final approval for the proposal on Tuesday with lawmakers backing it as a backup plan as there is a shortage of execution drugs in the U.S.

Governor Herbert has declined to state publicly whether he will approve or veto the bill.  His decision isn’t expected for a week or so.  If he approves the measure, Utah will be the only state that allows firing squads. States across the country have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers have refused to sell the lethal concoctions to prisons and corrections departments because of their commitment to “do no harm” in the medical field.

Utah is one of several states to seek out new forms of capital punishment after a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last year and one in Arizona that took nearly two hours.  Many states have passed secrecy bills to keep the origin of their drugs a secret as they turn to less reputable sources, such as compound pharmacies, who are not subject to FDA regulations.  States claim this is to protect the suppliers from branding damage, but opponents say that it damages transparent government and the rights of the defendants to appeal.  In addition, many argue that the death penalty is the most serious and most powerful act of the government and yet it has decreased public discourse and scrutiny because of secrecy bills.

Arkansas introduced a firing squad bill last year and Oklahoma is also considering the return of the gas chamber.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Paul Ray said it will give the state options, “We would love to get the lethal injection worked out…but if not, now we have a backup plan.”

Ray has touted firing squads as more humane than lethal injection.  He argued that trained marksmen can kill someone faster than the botched executions have.

Opponents of firing squads say that it is a left over brutish practice of the Wild West.

“I think Utah took a giant step backward,” said Ralph Dellapiana, Director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He called firing squads “a relic of a more barbaric past.”

Herbert’s approval would reinstate the use of firing squads a decade after Utah officially stopped using it.  Utah stopped offering the firing squad as a choice to death row inmates in 2004 saying that the method created too much publicity.

A handful of inmates on Utah’s death row were sentenced before the law changed and still have the option. Utah’s last execution by firing squad was in 2010.  Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by 5 police officers using .30-caliber Winchester rifles.

READ:  UADP’s Press Release About the Firing Squad Bill


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