Death by firing squad may occur solely in Utah

By Christopher Filanc-Gustafson
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – The Senate passed HB11, a bill to alter the Utah Code as it pertains to the execution of the death penalty.

Should substances to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection be unavailable, HB11 authorized the death penalty to be carried out by the firing squad.

If the governor decides to sign the bill, Utah will be the only state in the country to impose such a penalty. Although the bill passed it was not without opposition.Stock3

“I voted against that,” said Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City. The firing squad is particularly violent, she said, adding that she believes chemicals for lethal injection can be made more effective.

According to civilliberty.about.com, executions by firing squad dates as far back as firearms themselves, but only two people have been executed by firing squad in the United States in recent years (in 1977 and 1996 repectively). It remains an option for death row prisoners in Idaho, Oklahoma, and Utah.

There have been a lot of controversial bills this legislature. Heated debates over healthcare amendments and government revisions but this bill might be the most conflicted of all.

“Were just at the point where if we cant use the cocktail and we have people who are on death row, we have to have a way to do it”, Sen. Ockerlund-Beaver county, explained. He went on to say that it is a back up plan and if we need it we can use it

According to the text of the bill, it reads when a defendant is convicted of a capital felony and the judgement of death has been imposed, lethal intravenous injection is the method of execution. If the court holds that a defendant has a right to be executed by a firing squad, the method of execution for that defendant shall be a firing squad.

There is no money appropriated to this bill but apparently it does cost quite a bit of money for the execution. The following information comes from deathpenaltyinfo.org, each death penalty case costs an additional 1.6 million per inmate from trial to execution compared to life-without-parole cases. The death penalty is rarely used in Utah and apparently prosecutors have sought the penalty in only 7 cases in the last 5 years. Within those cases none of them came about a death sentence and there has only been 1 execution in the past 13 years in the state.

“There needs to be something in place, there are some heinous crimes that people commit and as sometimes as barbaric as it sounds to carry out a death penalty, in some cases I just believe in it and I believe it should be an option’, Sen. Ockerlund explained.

The Governor has until May to look at all the bills sent to him over this legislature and this topic may be one of the bills the he and his legal staff will take a very close look at before making the final decision.

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