A Utah legislative committee voted 9-2 Wednesday to endorse a bill that would make firing squads the main method for executing criminals if the drugs needed for lethal injection were not available to the state.
Currently those drugs are not available in the U.S.
“The European company that makes this [drug cocktail] is refusing to sell to the United States because they’re opposed to the death penalty,” explained Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), a member of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, who voted to forward the bill.
Rep. Ray add that firing squads are “absolutely one of the most humane ways to execute someone because it’s so quick and, quite honestly, one of the most painless ways.”
“I’m sure there’s some initial pain to it,” he continued, in his interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, “but you don’t see the struggling and the trying to breathe you see on any type of lethal injection. Even on the ones that are the lethal drug cocktail, you still see the gurgling and the fighting to breathe.”
Under the language of the bill, a court hearing would be held at least 30 days before the execution at which time a judge would evaluate whether lethal injection drugs are available. Should they not be available, the criminal would be executed at the hands of a firing squad.
Of the two committee members who opposed the endorsement Rep. Mark Wheatley (D-Salt Lake) and Rep. Marc Roberts (R-Santaquin), one said it wouldn’t solve the problem.
“I don’t see where this bill is needed,” said Rep. Wheatley. “We’re not correcting any problem. … It’s not solving anything.”
Convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner was the last individual executed by a firing squad in the U.S. He was fatally shot on June 18, 2010. Gardner was a Utah resident who had been on death row since 1985. In 2004, the Legislature changed the law to make lethal injection the primary means of execution but since Gardner was grandfathered in to the previous statute, which allowed condemned criminals to choose their method of execution, he was allowed to go out before a firing squad.
With all that said, what are your thoughts? Should Utah bring back the firing squad as the primary means of execution?