HB11: House anxious to vote on firing squad as death penalty alternative


By Aaron Hastings

Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah House of Representatives will debate the merits of reinstating the firing squad as an alternative in death penalty cases at 11:20 am on February 13.

The Death Penalty Procedures Amendments,HB11, would change current law as it applies to capital punishment. Among the changes are an authorization for the use of a firing squad should the government fail to obtain the substances necessary for lethal injection at least 30 days prior to the date of execution. Also, a firing squad may be used if a court holds that it is the defendant’s right, or if a court holds that lethal injection is unconstitutional.

Utah House of Representatives
Utah House of Representatives

After an indecisive verbal vote, the Utah House went to an electronic vote to determine whether or not the bill should be assigned a specific time for consideration.

Bills put on a time certain calendar are addressed at that time, regardless of where they sit in the bill queue. HB11 will receive a certain time despite 17 representatives who voted both verbally and electronically in the negative.

“This bill should have to wait its turn like everybody else,” said Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, who voted against the time certainty. When asked about his stance on the bill, Cox said it’s too early to tell, as the bill could be subject to change and further debate.

“You never know if the sponsor is going to put an amendment together, or even a substitute bill,” said Cox. “I’m hesitant to say where I’m at because it could change.”

HB11 has sparked interest in Utah as changes to the death penalty are being debated across the nation. This bill, however, only affects a small group of individuals.

“For the really small number of people [HB11] affects, it draws a lot of headlines,” said Cox, “I’m of the opinion we should spend more time on the issues that affect a lot of people. Yes, we have to deal with some of these things as well, but it should be a much smaller amount of time we spend on these issues,” he said.

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