Sentencing / Post-Conviction

Bring back firing squads, say some state lawmakers

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In light of lethal-injection drugs being in short supply, coupled with questions about their effectiveness, a Missouri state senator recently proposed that his state bring back firing squads as an execution option, the Associated Press reports.

“This isn’t an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild West or anything like that,” Rep. Rick Brattin told the AP. “It’s just that I foresee a problem, and I’m trying to come up with a solution that will be the most humane yet most economical for our state.”

Firing squads are also being considered in Wyoming, and have recently been used in Utah. Typically, according to the article, firing squads are comprised of five sharpshooters—four of of whom have loaded rifles while one’s rifle is loaded with blanks so shooters do not know with certainty who fired the fatal shot.

Most states went with lethal injection execution decades ago in order to make capital punishment more acceptable to the public.However there are some exceptions. In eight states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia— death row inmates can choose the electric chair for their executions. And in Arizona, Missouri and Wyoming, gas-chamber executions are allowed.

In Delaware, New Hampshire and Washington state, death row inmates can choose hanging.

Courts have worried that practices other than lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, the AP reports. But some fear lethal injection executions cause inmates significant physical pain.

In the recent death of Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire, it took approximately 26 minutes for him to die after receiving a lethal injection. And the last words of Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, who also was executed by lethal injection, reportedly were “I feel my whole body burning.”

Also the European Union, which opposes capital punishment, has threatened to set export limits of the drug propofol, a hospital anesthetic, if it’s used for U.S. executions. According to the AP, some European drugmakers don’t want their products used for executions and have stopped selling them to U.S. prisons.

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