On Monday, Utah’s governor has signed a bill that allows firing squads to carry out executions of death row prisoners.
The newly passed bill, sanctioned by Governor Gary Herbert, pronounces firing squads as a back-up option, which will be adopted when lethal injections are not available.
The decision came after several European manufacturers that oppose death penalties refused to sell drugs to states authorizing capital punishment.
Republican Paul Ray, the bill’s sponsor, argued that although carrying out executions through the hands of firing squads is more repulsive, it could offer a more humane choice.
The inmates sit in a chair 25 feet from five sharpshooters positioned behind a wall. After the inmates are offered two minutes to say their last words, the shooters start firing through slots in the wall. Of the five, one shoots a blank so no one has knowledge as to who shot the rounds that killed the inmate.
“We are completely out of the drugs,” Ray told the Los Angeles Times.
“We found out last year that there we had no ability to purchase more drugs. So looking down the road, we had to come up with a backup plan.”
“We decided to make it automatic to go to the firing squad to avoid the extra costs of additional litigation. It was the obvious choice since we had done it before, the protocols and facilities were already in place and nothing required a change.”
According to CNN, Marty Carpenter, the governor’s spokesperson said, “Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state.
“We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued. 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.”
Although alternatives are being sought to carry out capital punishment – some states use combinations of different drugs, for example –the shortage of drugs used in lethal injections has made matters difficult. Currently, thirty two states sanction capital punishment.
Execution by firings squad was banned in Utah in 2004. However, until the law was passed, death row inmates were granted the option if they asked for it.
The year 2010 saw the last execution by firing squad, which was also the last execution in Utah.
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