A Utah state representative wants to reinstate executions by firing squad in the state. The Associated Press reported that Rep. Paul Ray (R) of Clearfield made the suggestion as a solution to the nation’s dwindling supply of the drugs used for lethal injections.
“It sounds like the Wild West, but it’s probably the most humane way to kill somebody,” said Ray.
The lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to reinstate the firing squad at the beginning of the state’s next legislative session in January. Similar measures were proposed by conservative lawmakers in Wyoming and Missouri earlier this year, but the laws never passed.
Around the globe, pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply U.S. states with the drugs they need to carry out executions by lethal injection. The companies are wary of lawsuits and of being shunned by the global medical community.
Utah’s last execution by firing squad took place in 2010. Ronnie Lee Gardner was shot to death by five deputies armed with .30-caliber Winchester rifles.
The state phased out execution by firing squad in 2004, but inmates sentenced to die before that ruling were still able to choose a firing squad as their means of death.
“The prisoner dies instantly,” Ray insisted. “It sounds draconian. It sounds really bad, but the minute the bullet hits your heart, you’re dead. There’s no suffering.”
Lethal injection remains the primary mode of execution in the U.S., although Oklahoma’s grisly experiment with new execution drugs earlier this year proved disastrous and called the humaneness of the practice into question.
Convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett was scheduled to be executed using an experimental drug cocktail on April 29. Lockett’s vein collapsed as the drug was being administered.
After watching him thrash and struggle for nearly 20 minutes, Oklahoma state officials attempted to rush Lockett to a hospital and revive him. He died there of a heart attack.
Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center — an anti-death penalty advocacy group — said that Ray’s assertion that death by firing squad is always quick and neat is misinformed.
“The idea is that it would be very quick and accurate but just a little movement by the person could change that,” Dieter said. “Things can go wrong with any method of execution.”
Rep. Ray, however, said that the state needs to do something to avoid a situation like the botched Lockett execution.
“There’s no easy way to put somebody to death, but you need to be efficient and effective about it,” he said. “This is certainly one way to do that.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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