Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Missouri, Wyoming lawmakers open to allowing executions by firing squad

Lawmakers in two states have proposed legislation to allow executions by firing squad. Oklahoma allows execution by firing squad if both injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional. Utah outlawed firing-squad executions in 2004, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Lawmakers in two states have proposed legislation to allow executions by firing squad. Oklahoma allows execution by firing squad if both injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional. Utah outlawed firing-squad executions in 2004, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

After a condemned Ohio man executed with a combination of untested drugs appeared to gasp several times and took more than 20 minutes to die, at least two states are considering allowing executions by firing squad.

Missouri could carry out executions with firing squads under legislation proposed in the House.

The state currently puts inmates to death with injections of lethal drugs, although existing law also permits use of lethal gas — the method by which 39 people were executed from 1938 to 1965.

The House bill adds an option of executions by firing squads consisting of five law enforcement officers chosen by the state corrections director.

Missouri's next execution is scheduled for Jan. 29.

The state recently switched from three-drug to single-drug lethal injections after pharmaceutical companies stopped selling the three drugs to prisons. It's unclear where Missouri obtains the single drug, and there have been demands to halt executions until the source is revealed.

Meanwhile, a Wyoming lawmaker is pushing to allow use of the firing squad to execute condemned state inmates if constitutional problems or other issues ever prevented the state from using lethal injection.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, said Monday that state law currently calls for using a gas chamber if lethal injection is unavailable.

"The state of Wyoming doesn't have a gas chamber currently, an operating gas chamber, so the procedure and expense to build one would be impractical to me," said Burns, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I consider frankly the gas chamber to be cruel and unusual, so I went with firing squad because they also have it in Utah," Burns said. He's introduced the bill for consideration in the legislative session that starts Feb. 10 in Cheyenne.

"One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because frankly it's one of the cheapest for the state," Burns said. "The expense of building a gas chamber I think would be prohibitive when you consider how many people would be executed by it, and even the cost of gallows."

Burns said his bill addressed the possibility that the state could have to find a substitute for using lethal injection because a number of states are running short of the chemicals used for lethal injection.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, since 1976, more than 1,300 executions have been conducted in the United States. Only three — in Oklahoma and Utah — were by firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Oklahoma allows execution by firing squad if both injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional. Utah outlawed firing-squad executions in 2004, according to the center.

Ben Neary contributed to this report.

Associated Press
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