Concerned about the possible inability to obtain the usual 3-drug combination or adequate alternative drugs for executing prisoners, Utah may resurrect the firing squad.
By a vote of 9-2 in late November 2014, an interim body of state legislators approved the option of a firing squad if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained at least 30 days before a scheduled execution. One of the 2 legislators voting against the proposal says Utah does not have a problem that needs this solution; the other “nay” came from a legislator who is unsure of his position on the death penalty.
According to the legislator who presented the proposal, a firing squad is the most humane execution method, as the prisoner dies instantly. Though situated in Arizona, a federal judge in the U. S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with him, believing we should employ firing squads or similarly straightforward methods of execution. Judge Alex Kozinski maintains that lethal injection is a flawed system subject to repeated challenges because it uses drugs and personnel whose normal goal is saving lives in order to disguise the brutality of executions. Judge Kozinski believes firing squads would be more appropriate for executions because: America readily accepts guns; guns and ammunition would be easily obtained; the executions could be carried out by non-medical personnel or even by unmanned devices; and the true nature of executions – the savagery and brutality of executing human beings – would be evident.
The measure is opposed by a number of extra-legislative sources for varied reasons. One source, the anti-death-penalty Death Penalty Information Center, argues that a firing squad is still risky because a restrained inmate can move, causing the bullets to miss the heart and result in a slower, more painful death. Still others claim that there is no humane way to kill a person and that the state should not be in the “revenge business.” Still others who do not particularly oppose the death penalty oppose the use of firing squads because they will intensify media coverage, which Utah wishes to avoid.
In any event, the measure must still be approved by Utah’s legislature, slated to reconvene in January 2015.
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