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Utah Aims to Bring Back Firing Squads

State wants backup method in case of drug shortages
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2014 10:22 PM CST
Updated Nov 20, 2014 12:30 AM CST

(Newser) – Utah—the only state to have executed somebody by firing squad this century—is talking about bringing back the execution method it recently phased out. A bill to use firing squads when drugs for lethal injections can't be obtained sailed through a legislative committee and will be before the state legislature early next year, the Deseret News reports. "This bill deals with how do we, for lack of a better word, execute the death penalty," says the bill's Republican sponsor, explaining that the option provides a "backup" in case Utah can't obtain execution drugs within 30 days of a condemned inmate's death warrant.

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Before 2004, inmates sentenced to die in Utah had the option of choosing between lethal injection and the firing squad. Ronnie Lee Gardner, the last to choose the firing squad, was executed in 2010 by five police officers. Inmates will not be given a choice of execution method under the new bill, which is firmly opposed by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. "We don't believe there is a humane way to execute anyone," a spokeswoman tells the Salt Lake Tribune. "And the idea that we put five people behind a wall to shoot someone who is immobilized and unarmed is not humane." Execution drug shortages have led Tennessee to bring back the electric chair—and an Oklahoma lawmaker has proposed killing inmates with nitrogen. (Read more Utah stories.)

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