capital punishment

Utah Lawmaker Wants to Bring Back Firing Squads

FILE - In this March 6, 2013 file photo, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, makes remarks during a news conference Wednesday, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. In the wake of a bungled execution in Oklahoma last month, a Utah lawmaker wants to resurrect firing squads as a method of execution in his state. Ray, a Republican from Clearfield, says firing squads would be a quick and humane way to put someone to death as lawsuits and drug shortages have hampered lethal injections in recent years. Ray plans to introduce his proposal during Utah’s next legislative session in January. Utah stopped allowing death-row inmates to choose execution by firing squad after 2004. Several inmates sentenced before that time have opted for firing squad executions but are appealing their sentences. Utah last used the method in 2010, when a firing squad of five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles executed Ronnie Lee Gardner. (AP Photo/Michelle Price, File)
Photo: Michelle Price

In light of the horrific botched lethal injection of convicted rapist and murderer Clayton Lockett, who died of a massive heart attack almost 45 minutes after the drugs entered his body, Utah state Representative Paul Ray has decided that the United States needs more options when it comes to killing its prisoners. The AP reports that, when the state’s next legislative session begins, Ray plans to propose that Utah reinstate death by firing squad as an option for people sentenced to death. “It sounds draconian. It sounds really bad, but the minute the bullet hits your heart, you’re dead. There’s no suffering,” he explained. “It sounds like the Wild West, but it’s probably the most humane way to kill somebody.”

Richard Dieter of the anticapital punishment Death Penalty Information Center, argued that firing squad’s aren’t always as fast and easy as Ray seems to think. “The idea is that it would be very quick and accurate but just a little movement by the person could change that,” he said, noting that shooter’s can miss their targets. “Things can go wrong with any method of execution.”

Though lawmakers in Wyoming and Missouri have recently floated similar proposals without much success, Ray might have a better chance of succeeding because Utah’s Wild West days actually ended pretty recently — the state’s last firing squad execution took place in 2010, thanks to Ronnie Lee Gardner, who chose to die that way before the practice was stopped in 2004. Utah cited “the excessive media attention [firing squads] gave inmates” as a reason for banning the practice, but perhaps Ray can argue that the media attention directed at Oklahoma after Lockett’s death was much worse.