Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bill That Would Allow Executions by Firing Squad Passes the Legislature

The firing squad execution chair at the Utah State Prison in Draper.

Lawmakers in Utah Senate passed a bill Tuesday night that would allow execution by firing squad if lethal injection drugs are not available. It now heads to Governor Gary Herbert for his approval. 

Clearfield Republican Representative Paul Ray began crafting the legislation last year after news of botched executions in other states using lethal injection and difficulties states were having getting the necessary drugs.

“I found out from the Department of Corrections that we did not have the drug cocktail in our possession nor the ability to buy it because the European drug makers quit selling it to the United States because they’re opposed to the death penalty.  So we had to find a backup plan,” said Ray

Ray’s legislation would give Utah the authority to use the firing squad as a method of execution if the drugs used in a lethal injection cocktail are not available. Ray believes that death by firing squad is more humane than executing someone with the current lethal injection drugs.

“With the firing squad, you’re dead in three to five seconds.  You get four bullets directly to the heart. You bleed out very quickly and if you’ve ever talked to anybody that’s been shot, they don’t feel that gun shot for a while,” said Ray.

Ray’s bill passed the House last month and sailed through the Senate on Tuesday night. Democrat Gene Davis was one of 10 senators who voted against the bill, and he felt compelled to explain his vote on the Senate floor.

“I realize that this bill does not accomplish what many of believe should happen, which is to do away with the death penalty. This does not do that.  This only puts another alternative on the table,” said Davis.

Utah outlawed firing squads as the state’s primary method of execution in 2004, but prisoners sentenced to death before that year could still choose that method.  Governor Gary Herbert has yet to decide whether he will sign the bill into law.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.