Utah weighs return to firing squad as execution method
SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month, a Utah lawmaker says he believes a firing squad is a more humane form of execution. And he plans to bring back that option for criminals sentenced to death in his state.
Rep. Paul Ray, a Republican from the northern Utah city of Clearfield, plans to introduce his proposal during Utah's next legislative session in January.
Lawmakers in Wyoming and Missouri floated similar ideas this year, but both efforts stalled. Ray may succeed.
Utah has a tradition of execution by firing squad, with five police officers using .30-caliber Winchester rifles to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010, the last execution by rifle held in the state.
Ray argues the controversial method may seem more palatable now, especially as states struggle to maneuver lawsuits and drug shortages that have complicated lethal injections.
“It sounds like the Wild West, but it's probably the most humane way to kill somebody,” he said.
Utah eliminated execution by firing squad in 2004, citing the excessive media attention it gave inmates. But those sentenced to death before that date still had the option of choosing it, which is how Gardner ended up standing in front of five armed Utah police officers. He was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a Salt Lake City attorney in 1985 while trying to escape from a courthouse.
He was the third person to die by firing squad after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. A couple of other death row inmates have opted to die by gunfire instead of lethal injection in Utah, but they are all several years away from exhausting the appeals of their death sentences, Assistant Utah Attorney General Thomas Brunker said. Ray's proposal would give all inmates the option.
Lethal injection, the default method of execution in the United States, has received heightened scrutiny after secrecy and drug shortages in recent years and the April incident in Oklahoma, when inmate Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed and he died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes later.
Ray and lawmakers in other states have suggested firing squads might be the cheapest and most humane method.
“The prisoner dies instantly,” Ray said. “It sounds draconian. It sounds really bad, but the minute the bullet hits your heart, you're dead. There's no suffering.”
Opponents of the proposal say firing squads are not a fool-proof answer.
It's possible an inmate could move or shooters could miss, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pair of NYC officers killed in ambush shooting
- IBM’s Watson supercomputing system to be applied to PTSD
- Gray wolf decision reversed
- Poor morale, training in Air Force ICBM program spur questions about usefulness as nuclear deterrent
- Killer of New York police officers angry over Garner chokehold death, officials say
- 3-D printed prosthetics give dog ability to run
- Document hunt to begin for illegals who need proof of residency since 2010 for permit, reprieve
- Financial fraudster used investors’ lucre to freeze dead wife, feds contend
- N.Y. reports crime decrease, credits ‘broken windows’
- Ghostly snailfish found at record depth
- 4 Afghans freed from Guantanamo