Michael A. Cruse
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY –- Nearly two dozen anti-death penalty protesters gathered on the Capitol steps to protest HB11 which seeks to restore the firing squad as an option for Utah’s executions.
Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a group that seeks to abolish the death penalty, held a protest and news conference on Tuesday, Jan 27.
“Its seems to silly to me that we’re still having discussions about to how to kill people, when most other civilized countries have abolished the death penalty,” said Ralph Dellapiana, the director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Dellapiana said that since it is hard to know when the bill will be brought to the floor, he chose the first “real” day of the session to make the groups presence known.
With stories of botched lethal injections around the nation, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sought to bring back firing squads to Utah. The state ended the practice of using firing squads in 2004, however, criminals who were condemned before the law change were allowed to choose a firing squad. Utah last used the firing squad in 2010.
Dellapiana called a firing squad “barbaric and archaic.”
While the group opposes the death penalty in all forms, Dellapiana said opposing HB11 was a small step to getting capital punishment abolished in the state.
About 20 people joined the protest. Dellapiana commented on the small numbers.
“It’s the middle of the day of a workday, with short notice,” he said. Dellapiana claimed thousands of supporters who want to see the death penalty done away with, including 10 different churches who have joined in them in the cause.
Dellapiana cited costs and executions of people who were later proved innocence as reasons against the death penalty. He said the No.1 reason for opposing the death penalty is, most people in his group don’t feel the state has the right to execute people. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of capital punishment as long as the execution method is not “cruel and unusual.”
Randy Gardner, is the the brother of Ronnie Lee Gardner, the last man executed by firing squad in Utah. He said that seeing his brother executed took a tremendous toll on his family. He said the circus-like spectacle of so many media being there compounded his pain. He called it “a Wild West sideshow.” He admitted life in prison with parole would of been a fair punishment.
Some 32 states currently use capital punishment. If HB11 passes, Utah would return to its former status as the only state to use the firing squad as an execution method.