Utah Looking To Reinstitute Firing Squad Option For Death Row Inmates

Death Row inmates in Utah may have the firing squad option returning in the near future.

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee Wednesday night voted 9-2 to bring back the firing squad as an alternative to lethal injection by amending current Utah law. Utah made lethal injection the primary choice of execution in 2004, but kept the firing squad option available in case the drugs for lethal injection were not available, or lethal injection was ruled unconstitutional.

Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Salt Lake, and Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, voted against the proposal, with Rep. Wheatley quoted as saying, “I don’t see where this bill is needed. We’re not correcting any problem. … It’s not solving anything.”

The change from lethal injection has become necessary. In the past two years, persons who have been executed via lethal injection have not died the quick, painless deaths that were promised. This, of course, is due to the fact that many companies that manufacturer the lethal injection package are increasingly reluctant to sell the drugs for such a purpose. This left the American governments scrambling to find substitutes for the drugs they could no longer get.

Two separate instances, in Arizona and Oklahoma, revealed that the drug substitutions, though eventually caused death, were hardly painless. The most notable example of this is Clayton Lockett of Oklahoma. Lockett was given the substitute drugs to begin the process, but Lockett was alive for at least 30 minutes past the time he was supposed to die. Writhing in pain and suffering for breath, Lockett at last submitted to the drugs, dying from a heart attack.

The Press-Herald reports Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield stated that if the drugs are not attainable or available within 30 days of the scheduled execution, the firing squad becomes the option. Currently, Utah does not have the drugs on hand.

One of the reasons the firing squad was replaced with lethal injection was the excessive amount of attention given to not only the execution, but the prisoner, as well.

“We have to have an option,” Ray said. “If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you’re still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?”

The measure now goes to the Utah General Legislative session in January 2015 for further consideration.

[Image courtesy the Associated Press]