US state considers execution by firing squad as lethal injection drugs run short

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 11:08am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 11:10am

Share

Lawmakers in the western state of Wyoming are considering changing state law to permit execution of condemned inmates by firing squad in light of a shortage of drugs for lethal injections.

A legislative committee has directed its staff to draft a firing-squad bill for consideration ahead of next year’s legislative session.

Lethal injection is becoming increasingly difficult for states to perform as pharmaceutical companies withhold drug compounds that states traditionally have used.

Some inmates have raised constitutional challenges as states have turned to untried compounds.

Last month, Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after corrections officials there started trying to administer drugs at his execution.

President Barack Obama called the Lockett incident deeply troubling and said he had asked his attorney general to review the application of the death penalty.

Lawmakers in Utah also may consider a return to firing squads for civilian executions. A Republican state lawmaker said recently he intended to introduce firing-squad legislation in his state’s next legislative session.

Utah outlawed execution by firing squad in 2004 but kept it as an option for inmates convicted before that time. It last executed an inmate by firing squad in 2010.

Wyoming state law mandates that it would execute condemned inmates in a gas chamber, which the state doesn’t actually have, as a backup to lethal injection only if lethal injection were found to be unconstitutional. Existing state law doesn’t address how the state should proceed in response to a drug shortage.

Wyoming has no execution drugs on hand.

Republican state senator Bruce Burns said this week the judiciary committee intended to consider the firing-squad approach at its next meeting in July. He floated a bill in the legislative session early this year calling for allowing use of the firing squad, but it failed an introductory vote.

Burns said using the firing squad would be a preferable to lethal injection, in which inmates feel the needle and then have to wait for drugs to take effect.

Wyoming has only one inmate on death row: Dale Wayne Eaton, 69, is pressing a federal appeal of the state court death penalty he received in 2004 for the murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell, 18, of Montana.