Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law Monday that would permit the use of firing squads when no lethal injection drugs are available to execute individuals on death row.
“Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state,” said Marty Carpenter, spokesman for Gov. Herbert, in a statement
“We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued,” Carpenter continued. “However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.”
According to Herbert’s office, 34 states administer capital punishment, of those, all use lethal injection as the primary method of execution, eight use electrocution as a secondary method, four use a gas chamber, three use hanging and two use firing squads.
Under the language of the new law, 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.
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.