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Evidently, Utah has rescinded their earlier death penalty statute and must enact a new one to conduct executions by firing squad.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.