Utah Lawmaker Wants to Bring Back Execution by Firing Squad, Calls it Most “Humane” Option

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 17 2014 12:05 PM

Utah Lawmaker Wants to Bring Back Execution by Firing Squad, Calls it Most “Humane” Option

176685203-somalia-convicted-murderer-adan-sheikh-abdi-is-executed
Somalian convicted murderer Adan Sheikh Abdi is executed on August 17, 2013 by a firing squad in Mogadishu

Photo by Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

After the botched execution in Oklahoma last month raised all sorts of questions about capital punishment, Rep. Paul Ray, a Republican from Utah, says the answer is going back to the ways of yore. Inmates who are facing execution in Utah should have the option of being killed by firing squad, Ray said, telling the Associated Press he will be introducing his proposal when Utah’s next legislative session begins in January. Although other states have also discussed bringing back firing squads, the effort may see better results in Utah, where the last execution by five police officers using .30-caliber rifles took place in 2010.

"It sounds like the Wild West, but it's probably the most humane way to kill somebody," Ray said. Previous proponents of firing squads may not have gone that far but they all noted that killing is killing, so what’s the difference? “A lot of folks may picture the 1850s and everyone lining up to shoot, but the reality is that people suffer with every type of death,” Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin said earlier this year when he was proposing the method for his state. “This is no less humane than lethal injection.” Opponents, however, insist lots can go wrong with a firing squad and if an inmate moves, or the shooters miss, it could also lead to a painful death. "The idea is that it would be very quick and accurate but just a little movement by the person could change that," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "Things can go wrong with any method of execution."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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