Utah reinstates firing squad for death penalty

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Friday, March 27, 2015

The US state of Utah has reinstated the use of the firing squad as the method of execution for prisoners on death row, eleven years after it was abolished. On Monday Gary Herbert, the state's governor, signed into law legislation approving the firing squad as an alternative means of capital punishment if lethal injections are unavailable.

The new law follows the refusal of European manufacturers of drugs used in lethal injections to sell their products to US prisons, in opposition to capital punishment. It states the decision to use the firing squad could be made thirty days before the scheduled date if lethal injections were not available.

Human rights activists have called the move "backward" and "brutalizing". Karen McCreary, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said, "We believe all current methods of capital punishment violate the eighth amendment to the US constitution that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment, but this particular method, firing squad, seems very barbaric and something more associated with war".

Last July, U.S Court of Appeals judge, Alex Kozinski, wrote, "The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time." Jay Chapman, the man who developed the protocol for lethal injections still used today, said in 2007 remarks to CNN that lethal injection "works if it's administered competently", but added it does require skill to perform.

The passing of the law on Monday does not grant prisoners a choice on the method of execution they will face, and lethal injections are to remain the primary method of execution.