Due to the botched lethal injection which occurred in Oklahoma in April, a lawmaker in Utah is saying that he thinks death by firing squad is a more humane way of executing prisoners. Therefore he wants to try and bring back that choice for criminals who are sentenced to death in that state.
Rep. Paul Ray, who is a Republican and is from the city of Clearfield, Utah plans to announce his proposal during the next state legislative session which will be in January, 2015. Lawmakers in the states of Missouri and Wyoming also had similar ideas floating around this year, but each state’s efforts stalled.
However Ray just might succeed. Utah already had a tradition of performing executions by firing squad, with five police officers using .30-caliber Winchester rifles to execute prisoner Ronnie Lee Gardner back in 2010. He was the last execution performed by rifle which was done in the state.
Ray explained that the controversial technique may seem more plausible now, particularly as states are struggling to get around lawsuits and shortages of drugs that have created complications with lethal injections. He stated that it sounded like the Wild West, but it was probably the most humane way to execute someone.
Utah halted execution by firing squad back in 2004, blaming the extreme media attention given to inmates. However anyone who was sentenced to death before that time was still given the choice of it if they so wanted which Gardner did and so he was executed while standing in front of five armed Utah police officers. He had been given the death penalty because he fatally shot a Salt Lake City lawyer back in 1985 while he attempted to escape from a courthouse while he was on trial.
He was the third person to die by a firing squad after the United States Supreme Court reestablished the death penalty in 1976. Several other death row inmates have chosen firing squad instead of lethal injection in Utah, but they all are several years away from running out of appeals of their death sentences. Ray’s plan would give every death penalty inmate the gunfire option.
Lethal injection, which is the most commonly used method of execution in America, has received amplified scrutiny after drug shortages in recent years and the April event in Oklahoma, when death row prisoner Clayton Lockett’s vein exploded and it took him 43 minutes to die of a heart attack. (If any readers of this news article are interested in learning more about the botched lethal injection of Lockett, there is a link to that story at the bottom of this news article which is entitled Guardian Liberty Voice.)
Ray and other lawmakers in various states suggest that firing squads just may be the most humane and cheapest.
However opponents of the pitch state that firing squads are not inevitably fool-proof. Richard Dieter, who is the executive director of the Washington, D.C. Death Penalty Information Center, which is a place that is against any form of capital punishment, stated that it could be possible that an inmate might move around or the sharp shooters could miss, therefore causing the inmate to suffer a painful and slow death.
Dieter quoted a case from Utah’s territorial days back in 1897, when a firing squad happened to miss Wallace Wilkerson’s heart when they tried to execute him and he died about 30 minutes later.
However for Ray, the option for a firing squad makes perfect sense. That way Utah will avoid a situation like Oklahoma experienced and not have the legal battles over the blending of different drugs that have to be put inside the deadly injections.
Rep. Ray stated that there was no easy way to execute someone, but the state in charge has to be competent and effective about the task. A firing squad would certainly be one way to do it. Because of the botched lethal injection which occurred in Oklahoma in April, Ray thinks that a firing squad is a more humane way of executing prisoners.
By Kimberly Ruble