With the method of lethal injection being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court after several botched executions, Utah’s House of Representatives voted last week to resume using a firing squad as a means of execution.
The measure was put in place in response to the growing controversy over the effectiveness of the widely used lethal injection method. The drugs used for the deadly cocktail are becoming increasingly hard to obtain as more and more pharmaceutical companies refuse to issue them.
Last month the state of Oklahoma was ordered by the Supreme Court to halt three scheduled executions while it looks into the execution drugs used to put inmates to death. This past April convicted Oklahoma murderer Clayton Lockett was reported to have winced and groaned in pain before finally dying of a heart attack 43 minutes after being administered the lethal drugs.
There have been other reports of execution miscues in Arizona and Ohio as well.
Republican Rep. Paul Ray, the bill’s sponsor, which would employ firing squads only if drugs aren’t available or are outlawed, says it’s not an easy conversation to have but it’s a necessary one.
“It is never easy to talk about taking another life, but in our judicial system we have a means that requires that sometimes. We have to have an option,” Ray said at a recent press conference. “If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you’re still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?”
Ray believes using a trained firing squad is a more humane option than the lethal drugs but opponents deem the method to be “barbaric” and it appears the public agrees. A poll conducted after Lockett’s botched execution found that a firing squad was the third most preferred method behind the gas chamber and electric chair.
The Utah bill still needs to get through the state Senate before Gov. Gary Herbert can decide whether to sign it into law.
Currently, the only countries still use firing squads are Indonesia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.