Tuesday, March 02, 2004


The skinny:

ABCNEWS.com : Utah May Drop Execution by Firing Squad

Utah lawmakers sent the governor a bill Friday to eliminate firing squad executions and deny killers the chance to 'go out in a blaze of glory.' However, four death row inmates who have already chosen to die in a hail of bullets will get their way.

The House gave final approval to the measure, which would change Utah's method of execution to lethal injection.

During the Senate debate on Thursday, Sen. Ron Allen, a Democrat, said allowing murderers to choose firing squads so they can 'go out in a blaze of glory' makes heroes of criminals and causes victims' families more pain.

But Sen. Dave Thomas, a Republican, argued that media circuses are 'exactly what we want' in executions.

'We don't want these sentences to be carried out in the dead of night so no one knos,' said Thomas, adding that lethal injection is painless and 'the easy way out.'

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, two people in the United States have died by firing squad, both in Utah: Gary Gilmore in 1977 and John Albert Taylor in 1996.

A relic of its territorial days, Utah's firing squads employ five riflemen, one of whom shoots a blank so none will know who fired the fatal shot.

Idaho and Oklahoma retain the firing squad on their books as an option but have not used it in modern times.