The state of Utah approved a rather gruesome method of killing a death-row inmate by using a firing squad. While it may seem and feel barbaric, there are quite few reasons, Utah points out, that justify bringing back the death-by-bullet method.
On Monday, Utah became one of the surprisingly many states to allow executions of prisoners sentenced to death by using firing squads. Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving this controversial method as a backup if the state can’t restock its depleted supply of lethal injection drugs.
Though it may seem Utah is resorting to primitive ways of killing its death-row inmates, clearly there are a few caveats that have to be addressed before the inmate is strapped to a chair and shot at. However, even though it’s quite evident that none of the eight prisoners presently on death row will face a firing squad, there are a few plausible justifications the state has to support the method of taking a man’s life by firing bullets at him.
It’s near-impossible to get the lethal drugs: Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and the 29 other states where the practice is legal, are finding it really difficult to restock the lethal injection drugs. Over the past few years, an acute and mysterious shortage of sodium thiopental, a key drug in lethal injections, has left states scrambling for alternative ways to execute prisoners.
Since 2010, drug suppliers around the world, including the U.S., have been refusing to supply drugs for the injections. While the exact reasons aren’t exactly clear, few have voiced their displeasure about the death penalty, others are more concerned about their products earning the notoriety of being associated with executions, or being labeled as the “angels of death.”
Such is the shortage, some states imported sodium thiopental from shadier overseas sources, forcing courts to issue bans on imports of these lethal drugs. The situation did not alleviate when states turned to other European companies for alternative drugs, such as phenobarbital and propofol, which are typically used as sedatives for surgeries.
Firing-squads are way better than botched-up executions: During a firing-squad execution, a prisoner is seated in a chair that’s stacked with sandbags to prevent bullets from ricocheting. Five precision shooters, hand-picked from a pool of skilled and trained volunteers, aim their rifles through slots on a wall and target the prisoner’s chest (because it’s a larger target than the head). If the shooters hit their mark correctly, the prisoner’s heart ruptures and causes a relatively quick death from blood loss.
Lethal injections, on the other hand, have been a hit-and-miss, with many botched executions still haunting the states. This is because doctors, who can correctly administer the lethal injections, refuse to do so as it violates their professional ethics. Combine that with states using unreliable and not-thoroughly-tested drugs, makes a very dangerous combination that has horrible results, but not a painless death.
Looking at the mess these lethal injections, which promise a painless death, have caused in the past, perhaps the firing squad seems like a more humane option.
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