Friday, May 23, 2003

USAT says Utah is looking for a few good gunmen And believe me, it's not for wabbit hunting season...

The highlights:

...The only state that dispatches condemned inmates by firing squad is assembling gunmen for back-to-back executions next month.

....The nation's last execution by firing squad was in 1996.

...Exercising their right under Utah law, serial killer Roberto Arguelles and Troy Michael Kell, a white supremacist who stabbed a fellow inmate to death, have chosen the firing squad over lethal injection and are set to die at 12:01 a.m. on June 27 and 28, respectively.

....Of the 850 inmates put to death in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, two have died by firing squad, both in Utah: Gary Gilmore in 1977 became the first person executed in the United States after the court's ruling, and John Albert Taylor was put to death 19 years later.

Since 1977, Utah has executed four other killers, all by injection.

...Anti-death penalty forces are protesting, arguing that the firing squad amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. And the prison is bracing for large crowds of protesters.

Utah's use of firing squads predates statehood in 1896 and is a remnant of the early Mormon belief that bloodshed is a required punishment for taking a life, said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which says it is neutral about the death penalty but critical of its application.

...The Utah Corrections Department is recruiting law enforcement officers for two five-person firing squads, asking the police departments in the communities where the crimes were committed to nominate volunteers.

...A hood will be put over the condemned man's head and a target will be pinned over his heart. The executioners will fire simultaneously from gun portals in a separate room at the inmate, seated in a chair about 30 feet away.

One of the five rifles will contain a blank so that no one will know who fired the fatal shots.