In the wake of last month's botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, United States, a lawmaker in Utah has called for the reintroduction of the firing squad to execute people on Death Row. Republican Paul Ray claims death by firing squad is a more "humane" alternative and will attempt to introduce his proposal at Utah's next legislative session.
Ray, a lawmaker from Clearfield, northern Utah, claims that states where the death penalty is used might prefer firing squads as the use of drugs is beset with legal issues and authorities struggle to obtain the necessary drugs. "It sounds like the Wild West," admitted Ray, "but it's probably the most humane way to kill somebody. There's no easy way to put somebody to death, but you need to be efficient and effective about it. This is certainly one way to do that."
Under Ray's proposal, all inmates about to be executed would be offered death by firing squad as a choice. In 2010, murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner chose to die in this fashion, also in Utah. He had been convicted of the murder of Salt Lake City attorney Michael Burdell in 1985 as he tried to flee a courthouse. Two other people have been executed by firing squad since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1978.
Lockett took 40 minutes to die in agony after being injected with lethal drugs in Oklahoma, and Ray believes death by firing squad would remove the chance of anything similar occurring again. However, death by firing squad can also be slow and agonising. In Utah in 1897 Wallace Wilkerson reportedly took 27 minutes to die when a firing squad missed his heart.
The USA is the only Western country to sanction the death penalty. It is legal in 32 of the 52 states. Since its reintroduction in 1978 at least 1,373 people have been executed. Currently over 3,000 inmates are on death row.