US lawmaker calls for return of executions by firing squad

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 3:27am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 3:47am


A United States lawmaker has called for executions to be carried out by firing squad after the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month.

Republican Paul Ray believes firing squads are a more humane option and wants them brought back for criminals sentenced to death in his home state of Utah.

He plans to introduce his proposal during Utah's next legislative session in January.

Lawmakers in Wyoming and Missouri floated similar ideas this year, but both efforts stalled. Utah already has a tradition of execution by firing squad.

Five police officers using .30 calibre Winchester rifles executed Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010 - the last execution by rifle to be held in the state.

Ray argues the controversial method may seem more palatable now, especially as states struggle to deal with lawsuits and drug shortages that have complicated lethal injections.

"It sounds like the Wild West, but it's probably the most humane way to kill somebody," Ray said. Utah eliminated execution by firing squad in 2004, citing the excessive media attention it gave inmates.

But those sentenced to death before that date still had the option of choosing it, which is how Gardner ended up standing in front of five armed Utah police officers.

He was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a Salt Lake City attorney in 1985 while trying to escape from court.

Gardner was the third person to die by firing squad after the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Lethal injection, the default method of execution in the US, has received heightened scrutiny after drug shortages in recent years and the April incident in Oklahoma, when inmate Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed and he died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes later.

Ray and lawmakers in other states have suggested firing squads might be the cheapest and most humane method of execution.

"The prisoner dies instantly," Ray said. "It sounds draconian. It sounds really bad, but the minute the bullet hits your heart, you're dead. There's no suffering."