Utah government chooses firing squad over lethal injections


Lethal injection drugs are scarce, which means Utah will be using its second choice, firing squads, to carry out the death penalty.

Hospira, the sole legal provider of the lethal injection drug, said its will no longer make the drug because of a global campaign by death penalty opponents, as stated in an E-newsletter this year from the Council of State Governments. The shortage of lethal injections has caused many states to use firing squads or to use their injections sparingly.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed bill HB11 two years ago to allow execution by firing squad if lethal injection was not available.

Ralph Dellapiana talks to the governor at the Utah State Capitol to halt the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Garner. (Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)

Mississippi and Oklahoma also have a firing squad as an execution option. Whereas Utah uses firing squad as a second choice, Mississippi and Oklahoma have it as a third choice.

“The best and most humane alternative to the injection is the firing squad, and several states have the firing squad as a pending decision to their execution options — for Utah, the firing squad a permanent solution,” said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, the chief sponsor of HB11.

Ralph Dellapiana, who founded Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty in 2007, said there is no definition for what constitutes a “humane way to kill another human being.”

Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a group of multiple organizations that oppose the death penalty and who “are dedicated to stopping executions in our state,” according to its website.

The death penalty has been repealed in 134 countries as well as in 15 states since 2009.

Dellapiana said having a man’s life in his hands moved him to act to repeal the death penalty.

People gather at the Utah State Capitol to protest the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner. (Courtesy of Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)

Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty went public to protest the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. Dellapiana said Gardner had not been given a fair trial by both state and federal courts.

Dellapiana said Gardner’s execution caused a widespread disturbance and disapproval, and he suspects backlash will occur again with the reinstating of the firing squad.

“The basic alternative to the death penalty is to have life without possibility of parole be the maximum sentence for the most egregious murder cases,” Dellapiana said. “Notably, a recent poll shows that Utahans also favor this option when given the choice.”

A Public Policy Polling survey of 784 Utah voters found 47 percent of voters prefer people convicted of murder be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. (Rachel Andrews)


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