1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Utah restores firing squad executions

March 24, 2015

Utah has become the only US state to restore firing squad executions. The move comes after a series of botched executions in several states appeared to cause condemned inmates prolonged pain and suffering.

USA Todesstrafe Hinrichtung durch Erschießung in Utah
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Nelsen

The US state of Utah allowed the return of the firing squad as a means of execution Monday, becoming the only state in the country to allow the practice.

Governor Gary Herbert signed the legislation into law Monday after it was approved by the Utah state senate earlier this month. The law provides for a the use of a firing squad to carry out an execution if lethal drugs are not available.

The law reverses a 2004 measure that removed a condemned inmate's choice for a firing squad execution. Utah last executed a man by firing squad in 2010, honoring the request from a condemned man who was sentenced before the 2004 law took effect.

"We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued," Herbert's spokesman Marty Carpenter said.

"However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch."

Opponents of the bill call the punishment barbaric, with the Utah American Civil Liberties Union saying the law makes the state "look backwards and backwoods."

Several US states have found it difficult to keep up their inventories of lethal drugs as European manufacturers opposed to the death penalty are refusing to supply the lethal medications to US prisons. The shortage prompted state officials to utilize other lethal medication cocktails, resulting in a series of bungled executions that appeared to cause inmates prolonged pain and suffering.

Symbolbild Todesstrafe USA
Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the 34 US states that permit the death penaltyImage: imago/blickwinkel

The bill's sponsor, Republican state representative Paul Ray, argued that a firing squad is more humane than the slow and painful deaths that can occur during botched lethal injections.

The US Supreme Court announced in January it would review execution procedures to make sure they complied with constitutional protections against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Thirty-four US states currently permit the death penalty in capital cases, and all use lethal injection as the primary method to execute convicts.

bw/rc (AP, dpa, AFP)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A bombed out building in Mariupol
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage