Utah lawmakers vote to allow firing squad for executions if lethal drugs not available

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah passed a bill on Tuesday, March 10th that would bring back the firing squad in Utah as a method of execution.

In an 18-10 vote, the Senate approved House Bill 11 which would establish the firing squad as a backup method of execution should the primary method of lethal injection be unavailable.

The bill would reverse a law passed in March 2004 that banned execution by firing squad in Utah.

The firing squad has been highly controversial in the Utah State Legislature. After it passed out of the Senate, lawmakers agreed to study whether or not to continue to have capital punishment in Utah.

The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.  In a statement to KSTU, the governor’s office said:

“As a general practice, Gov. Herbert does not commit to action on a bill until he has reviewed the final version that has passed both the House and the Senate. He is, however, willing to discuss the principles by which he evaluates legislation.

In the state of Utah, aggravated murder is a crime punishable by death. This is a sentence that was determined to be appropriate for crimes where a life was taken in an especially heinous and aggravated manner and was enacted by our Legislature with the support of their constituents. Accordingly, in those cases, as a state, we ask a jury to make the difficult decision to impose the death sentence. When a jury makes that decision and a judge signs a warrant enforcing that lawful decision, we have an obligation to make sure the order can be carried out. Our statute is clear that lethal injection is the method by which that will happen. We have no intent to change that.  

Our Department of Corrections is conscientious and dedicated to making sure that they are able to carry out the order in that manner. However, our state, as is the case with states around the country, is finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the substances required to perform a lethal injection. We are dedicated to pursuing all reasonable and legal options to obtain those substances to make sure that, when required, we are in a position to carry out this very serious sentence by lethal injection. However, if those substances cannot be obtained, this proposal would make sure that those instructed to carry out the lawful order of the court and the carefully deliberated decision of the jury can do so.”