Utah Becomes Only US State to Reinstate Firing Squads

Utah will resume the use of firing squads to carry out the death penalty when lethal injections drugs are not available.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed the measure into law on Monday. The move makes Utah the only US state to use firing squads as a method of execution.

Some US states are considering alternative execution methods as they struggle to obtain lethal injection drugs amid a nationwide shortage.


Drug inventories dwindled after European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refused to sell the lethal concoctions.

Civil rights groups have said use of firing squads makes Utah “look backward and backwoods”.

Governor Herbert finds the firing squad “a little bit gruesome,” but said the state needs a back-up execution method.

“We prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued,” the governor’s spokesman Marty Carpenter told the Associated Press.

“However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.”


It will probably be years before Utah’s next execution. The head of Utah’s prison system has said the state does not have any reserves of lethal injection drugs.

The new Utah law reinstates the use of firing squads more than a decade after the state abandoned the practice.

Because of the intense media attention, Utah lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of a death by firing squad several years ago.

But a handful of inmates sentenced to death before 2004 still have the option of going before a firing squad.

Ronnie Lee Gardner, a convicted murderer who shot and killed a lawyer in attempt to escape from prison, was the last inmate executed by a firing squad in 2010.

In Missouri a bill is being considered to allow firing squads.

“This isn’t an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild West or anything like that,” Missouri state Representative Rick Brattin told reporters earlier this year. “It’s just that I foresee a problem, and I’m trying to come up with a solution that will be the most humane yet most economical for our state.”

A similar bill recently was rejected by Wyoming’s state legislators. The gas chamber is available in Wyoming as a back-up method, though the state does not have any gas chambers. Virginia legislators tried to reinstate the electric chair should lethal injection drugs be unavailable, but the bill stalled in the Senate.

There have only been three civilian firing-squad deaths in the United States since the end of the Civil War – all of them in Utah. The state outlawed that method in 2004, but it remains an option to a handful of people remaining on death row who were sentenced before the ban became law.

Source: BBC News

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