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Governor signs law making Utah only state with firing squad

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah became the only state to allow firing squads for executions Monday when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving the method's use when no lethal injection drugs are available. Herbert has said he finds the firing squad "a little bit gruesome," but Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists.
"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," Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter said.

However, enforcing death sentences is "the obligation of the executive branch," he said. The governor's office, in a statement announcing the new law, noted that other states allow execution methods other than lethal injection. In Washington state, inmates can request hanging. In New Hampshire, hangings are fallback if lethal injections can't be given. And an Oklahoma law would allow the state to use firing squads if lethal injections are ever declared unconstitutional.

Utah's approval of firing squads carries no such legal caveat and represents the latest example of frustration over botched executions and the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs as manufacturers opposed to capital punishment have made them off-limits to prisons. The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, argued that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more decent than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry - or even if they go as planned. Though Utah's next execution is probably a few years away, Ray said wants to settle on a backup method now so authorities are not racing to find a solution if the drug shortage drags on. Ray didn't return messages seeking comment Monday.

Opponents of the measure say firing squads are barbaric, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah saying the bill makes the state "look backward and backwoods." Utah lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad in 2004, saying the method attracted intense media interest and took attention away from victims. Utah is the only state in the past 40 years to carry out such a death sentence, with three executions by firing squad since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The last was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles in an event that generated international interest and elicited condemnation from many. Gardner killed a bartender and later shot a lawyer to death and wounded a bailiff during a 1985 courthouse escape attempt.

The bailiff's widow, VelDean Kirk, who witnessed Gardner's execution, said she supports the new law. "I don't think it's barbaric," she said. "I think that's the best way to do it." Gardner's brother recently has spoken out against the method. Randy Gardner of Salt Lake City said Monday that he doesn't condone his brother's actions, but he opposes the death penalty and said firing squads make the state look bad. "My god, we're the only ones that are shooting people in the heart," he said.

One person nearing a possible execution date is Ron Lafferty, the state's longest-serving death row inmate, who claimed God directed him to kill his sister-in-law and her baby daughter in 1984 because of the victim's resistance to his beliefs in polygamy. Lafferty has already requested the firing squad - an option available to him even before this new law was passed because he, like Gardner, was convicted prior to 2004, when lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad. The other Utah death row inmate who could be next up for execution, Doug Carter, has chosen lethal injection. Under this new law, Carter would get the firing squad if the state can't get their hands on lethal injection drugs 30 days before.

The state doesn't currently have lethal injection drugs on hand.
Very progressive.
David Guyatt Wrote:Very progressive.

Aye, but 'Very very progressive', is traumatising-torture-murdering innocent ppl with schiz training & ELF microwaves & millimeter waves on the basis of notions and Hollywood scripts to keep the attack dogs occupied. And that's a fact. >wibble<
From the hundreds of minutes it's taken a couple of septics ('septic tank' - Yank) to be off'ed, Russia's traditional bullet-in-the-head when they're not looking, seems kinda civilized.
Hear about the nitrogen method that's being mooted? I've had trouble breathing lately. Probably more coincidence, tho' I tend to put alot down to radio-frequency dosimetry.

Oklahoma bill to allow nitrogen gas in executions approved without debate

  • Move comes in response to growing shortage of lethal injection drugs
  • Oklahoma ACLU condemns bizarre process' of seeking new killing methods

[URL=""] [Image: 9298c424-d839-409c-adb8-e7485db58366-620x372.jpeg]
[/URL] The current execution chamber at the Oklahoma state penitentiary may in future need to accommodate gassing of condemned inmates., walks past the gurney in the execution chambe Photograph: Anonymous/Associated Press Associated Press in Oklahoma
Wednesday 25 March 2015 10.07 AEDT

Oklahoma would become the country's first state to allow the use of nitrogen gas to execute death-row inmates under legislation given preliminary approval on Tuesday, as state lawmakers look for alternatives amid a growing shortage of lethal injection drugs.

Analysis Why did Utah bring back the firing squad? How the US kills people in 2015

Gas chamber, firing squad and the electric chair have all been up for consideration in the wake of a European-led boycott of lethal injection drugs

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The gas proposal was introduced at a time when fewer pharmacies and drug manufacturers are willing to supply drugs used in lethal injections, the primary method of execution in Oklahoma and other states. The US supreme court is also reviewing how Oklahoma conducts executions, which are currently on hold in the state, following the botched injection of an inmate last year.
The bill, along with a similar proposal in the Oklahoma house, would allow the state to use nitrogen gas which when inhaled leads to hypoxia, the gradual lack of oxygen in the blood if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional. Lethal injection would remain the state's primary execution method, but nitrogen gas would be the state's first backup method ahead of the electric chair, which the state has not used since 1966, and a firing squad, which has never been used in an Oklahoma execution.
Neither the house nor senate version of the plan has been publicly debated, and that lack of open discussion continued on Tuesday when the senate judiciary committee voted 8-0 for the house bill without debate or testimony.
The legislation, which has already been approved in the house, now moves to the full senate. The senate version has already been passed by the senate and is pending in a house committee.
The co-author of the legislation, representative Mike Ritze, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on Tuesday.
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of Oklahoma's American Civil Liberties Union chapter, said lawmakers are taking the wrong approach.
"It's a fool's errand to even engage in this utterly bizarre process of searching out new ways to take people's lives against their will," Kiesel said, noting that nitrogen gas is not used by any other states in executions. "We would be experimenting on the condemned using a process that has been banned in many states for the euthanasia of animals."
According to Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, no state has ever used nitrogen gas or inert gas hypoxia to execute an inmate. The organisation said there have been no reports of the method being used in other countries, though execution data from China the country that executes the most people is not readily available.
A group of Oklahoma death row inmates is challenging the state's lethal injection method in federal court. They sued following the botched execution last April of Clayton Lockett, who struggled against his restraints after attendants administered lethal drugs through a poorly placed intravenous line.
The case involves whether midazolam, a sedative, properly renders an inmate unconscious before the second and third drugs are administered. Oklahoma officials concede that midazolam is not their preferred execution drug, but that death-penalty states have been forced to explore alternatives because manufacturers of more effective drugs are refusing to sell them for use in lethal injections.
The governing body of the American Pharmacists Association is considering a policy that would oppose pharmacists' participation in executions, including providing the drugs used in lethal injections, according to group spokeswoman Michelle Spinnler.
In an email, she said the proposed wording of the policy states that the association opposes such participation in executions, "either directly or indirectly, on the basis that such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of healthcare".
A vote on the policy is scheduled this weekend.