Utah Lawmakers OK Return of Firing Squads

It's not clear whether governor will sign 'backup method' bill
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2015 12:03 AM CDT
Updated Mar 11, 2015 3:10 AM CDT
Republican Rep. Paul Ray, of Clearfield, votes on the Utah House floor.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
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(Newser) – Under a bill passed by Utah's state Senate yesterday, the state's executioners won't have to worry about a shortage of lethal injection drugs unless there's also a shortage of bullets. The bill, introduced by its Republican sponsor as a "backup," allows the use of firing squads when there's a drug shortage and was passed by an 18-10 vote, NBC News reports. Gov. Gary Herbert hasn't said whether he will sign the bill, though his office describes it as a move to "make sure that those instructed to carry out the lawful order of the court and the carefully deliberated decision of the jury can do so," reports Fox 13.

Utah decided to phase out firing squads in 2004, but inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner, who had chosen the method when he was sentenced, was executed by firing squad in 2010, and there a few other death-row inmates sentenced before 2004 who can still opt for the method, according to the AP, which notes that the execution method has long been controversial in Utah: In 1879, Wallace Wilkerson faced a firing squad for killing a man over a game of cribbage, but they missed his heart and he wasn't pronounced dead until 27 minutes later. In Oklahoma, where state law allows firing squads only if lethal injection and electrocution are declared unconstitutional, lawmakers are looking into making the state the first one to execute people with nitrogen gas.

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