Utah Considers Bringing Back Execution by Firing Squad. Is Oklahoma Far Behind?


Representative Paul Ray of Utah has announced that he will introduce a measure to bring back execution by firing squad in the state.

Oklahoma’s botched execution of a few weeks ago has led to a rather ugly debate about the death penally in several quarters. This debate has ranged from calls for an end to the death penalty on one side of the argument to discussion of alternate means execution other than lethal injection on the other side.

Evidently, Utah has rescinded their earlier death penalty statute and must enact a new one to conduct executions by firing squad. We don’t have that problem in Oklahoma. Our law allows for the use of firing squads right now.

Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of all this. Not that I don’t understand the debate. I do. I am just somewhat befuddled by the recent attacks on lethal injection as a means of execution by those who are opposed to the death penalty.

Oklahoma has been the focus of this debate, both because of actions to delay executions that targeted the companies that manufacture these drugs, and because of the botched execution which may have been partly due to an inability to get enough of the correct drugs. I think the attorneys who raised this challenge may have been somewhat short-sighted, at least if their goal was to end the death penalty in Oklahoma.

The state has other means of execution available to it besides lethal injection. I have no doubt whatsoever that the legislative will is to use these means, if necessary.

I wrote at the beginning of this fiasco, when attorneys for death row inmates managed to get a temporary stay of execution by challenging an Oklahoma law that allowed anonymity for the companies that manufacture the drugs used in executions, that these attorneys should be careful what they wished for. I thought then and think now that this approach failed to consider what might be the ultimate consequences.

I know the people who make the laws of this state. I can tell you that there is no sympathy among them — including from me, despite the fact that I oppose the death penalty — for the next person awaiting execution in Oklahoma. This particular inmate raped and murdered an 11 month old baby. I’ve already discussed the heinous crime which the inmate who suffered the botched execution committed.

Not only is there no sympathy for these men, but very few of the lawmakers have any qualms about the death penalty itself. I have been an outlier on this issue throughout my legislative career. When you combine my opposition to the death penalty with my opposition to abortion/embryonic stem cell research/egg harvesting/euthanasia, etc, I have been unique.

The point is that the legislative will is to enact whatever law is necessary — or in this case, to use the laws already on the books — to execute a man who raped and murdered an 11 month old baby. The Oklahoma legislature would pass any law necessary to do this, and they would be willing to be suspend rules or be called into special session to get it done. That is the degree of the legislative will in both political parties on this issue.

I repeat what I wrote earlier about the attorneys who are playing these games: Be careful what you wish for. Because, unless you are really lucky, you will surely get it.

  • JohnE_o

    Execution by firing squad, as well as by hanging on the gallows, has a brutal honesty about what is being done that lethal injection tries to hide.

    • FW Ken

      I oppose the death penalty for religious and non-religious reasons, but by this reasoning, the guillotine would be the most reliable, humane way to do the deed. But society wouldn’t want to see it.

  • kenofken

    I oppose the death penalty for much different reasons than Christians, and yet I support the idea of firing squads. Why? Because a society which cannot own the killing of another person for the act of violence it is has no business carrying out such a penalty. It is dishonorable. Capital punishment very arguably diminishes respect for life, but sanitizing killing greatly compounds that. If we are convinced that this really is a just and justified penalty, we should be able to look it, and the condemned, in the eye when we carry it out. There should be a squad of rifles, and none of that business of loading a blank so no one knows if they really killed someone. Moreover, the governor of the state should be among them. If these tough-guy and mama-bear red state governors champion the death penalty, they should have the fortitude to personally own it. I wonder how many of these armchair warriors could stand 20 feet from a condemned man with a Garand and pull the trigger?

  • SisterCynthia

    A BABY? That’s horrifyingly messed-up (understatement, due to desire to not use all the bad words I know). It doesn’t get much lower than that among human beings. And, I agree: when lawyers play games like they have been over the death penalty, they are playing with fire in a dry forest on a windy day… you can win a wee little battle and cost yourself the war if you get too cute. OK is not NYC, or LA.

  • pagansister

    Interesting that OK still has the firing squad on the books. Wonder if a death row inmate could have his/her execution delayed because he/she wants to know who manufactured the bullets! ? As for the next guy in line in your state and the horrible crime he is convicted of—why wait for the injection debate? Firing squad is still legal—go for it.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      I live in Wyoming. Hanging for cattle rustling and horse thieving is still on the books. We haven’t enforced it for a while, though.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Hey I mention this a while back! Somebody is listening to me. ;)