Firing squads for Utah death row executions
Firing squads for Utah death row executions Reuters

Death row prisoners in Utah are to be executed by "gruesome" firing squads in a move defended by the governor of the US state.

The controversial move has been made amid frustration over lethal injections caused by a lack of chemicals and prolonged, drawn out executions.

Utah governor Gary Herbert said it was a legal obligation to carry out executions which have been sanctioned by juries. Critics said firing squads were an "embarrassment" to Utah.

Firing squads shall be used as a second-choice execution method in the event of supply shortages of lethal drugs, despite Herbert admitting that they are "a little bit gruesome".

A spokesman for Herbert said: "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.

"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."

Anti-death penalty campaigner Ralph Dellapiana said: "It's an embarrassment to Utah.

"We should be taking the moral lead on this. You can't be both pro-life and pro-death."