Firing squads legalised as back-up in Utah

Utah has become the only US state to allow firing squad executions when no lethal injection drugs are available.

Governor Gary Herbert signed a law approving the method for use, even though he has called it “a little bit gruesome”.

The Republican governor has said Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a back-up execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists.

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“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,” Mr 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.”

The approval is the latest 
illustration of some states’ frustration over bungled executions and difficulty obtaining the drugs.

Utah is one of several states seeking new forms of capital punishment after a botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year.

States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refuse to sell the components of lethal injections to US prisons.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican congressman Paul Ray, argued that a team of trained marksmen was faster and more decent than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry – or even if they go as planned.

Although Utah’s next execution is probably a few years away, Mr Ray said he wanted to settle on a back-up method now so authorities are not racing to find a solution if the drug shortage drags on.

Opponents of the measure say firing squads are barbaric, with the American Civil Liberties Union saying the bill makes the state “look backward and backwoods”.

Ralph Dellapiana, director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said it was a disgrace that state politicians were still talking about methods to execute people.