Federal Judge: Use Firing Squads, Not Lethal Injections

Don't pretend killing isn't brutal, Kozinski says

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 22, 2014 3:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Killing people is a brutal and messy business, and if Americans can't deal with that, they shouldn't be condemning people to death, a top federal judge says. In a strongly worded dissent in an Arizona lethal-injection case, Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, calls the current system "inherently flawed" and says states that want to execute inmates should return to more "primitive—and foolproof—methods" of execution, NBC reports. "The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos," he writes. "And the electric chair, hanging, and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps. The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or 10 large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time."

Kozinski says the switch to lethal injections in the '70s was misguided, the Guardian reports. "Subverting medicines meant to heal the human body to the opposite purpose was an enterprise doomed to failure," he writes, adding that drugs are used "to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful—like something any one of us might experience in our final moments. … But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality." Kozinski was dissenting against a decision to delay the execution of Joseph Wood, who shot his estranged girlfriend and her father to death in 1989. "While I believe the state should and will prevail in this case, I don't understand why the game is worth the candle," the judge wrote.

This photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood.
This photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood.   (AP Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections)
The firing squad execution chamber is seen at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, is shown.
The firing squad execution chamber is seen at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, is shown.   (AP Photo/Trent Nelson, Pool, File)
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Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood - Judge Alex Kozinski

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