Utah senators have passed a bill, with no debate, to reinstate the use of firing squads in the state's capital-punishment cases. But whether Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert will sign the bill remains uncertain. Herbert has not said whether he would sign the bill, which passed the state Senate on Tuesday, and a spokeswoman for Herbert told the Los Angeles Times that it was not yet clear when the governor would review it.
Herbert issued a statement saying that lethal injection was preferable but admitted that obtaining drugs for lethal injection had become a challenge for the state. "We are dedicated to pursuing all reasonable and legal options to obtain those substances to make sure that, when required, we are in a position to carry out this very serious sentence by lethal injection," Herbert added in his statement. A spokesman for Herbert, Marty Carpenter, also issued a statement, noting that the use of a firing squad could serve as a backup method when lethal-injection drugs were not available.
The bill, which passed the state Senate 18-10, also passed the Utah House of Representatives, 39-34, in mid-February. It was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Paul Ray, who has called death by firing squad more humane and reliable than lethal injection.
If the governor signs the bill, he would make Utah the only state to allow execution by firing squad, a practice that was banned in the state in 2004. However, inmates who received the death penalty before 2004 can still opt to go before a firing squad. The last execution by firing squad in Utah occurred in 2010, the BBC reported.
Specifically, the measure would allow executions to be carried out by firing squad if the state cannot obtain the cocktail of three lethal injection drugs that is used for executions. Botched executions by lethal injection last year, which some deemed the worst in the history of the practice, drew criticism, including calls for careful reviews of how executions are carried out in the United States. Some inmates reportedly took hours to die in visibly torturous deaths.
Drugs for lethal injections are also in short supply in other states, pushing some to weigh other options for capital punishment. States including Arkansas and Wyoming are considering legislation that would permit execution by firing squad.