Tag Archives: firing squad

Utah Becomes Only State To Authorize Execution By Firing Squad As Backup Method

On Monday, Republican Governor Gary Herbert made Utah the only state to allow exception by firing squad, when he signed a bill that made it legal, if lethal injection is not available.

The bill states that it “modifies the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure regarding the execution of the death penalty,” by providing that if “substances are not available to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection on the date specified by warrant,” the death penalty “shall be carried out by firing squad.

Reuters reported that this decision comes during a shortage of the drugs used for lethal injections, after several pharmaceutical companies, primarily in Europe, “imposed sales bans about four years ago because they objected to having medications made for other purposes being used in executions.”

State Representative Paul Ray (R), a sponsor of the bill, told the Associated Press that when being executed by firing squad, a prisoner is seated in a chair with a target pinned over his/her heart. He said that the inmate is then shot by five anonymous shooters (chosen from a pool of volunteers, with priority given to the ones from the area in which the crime happened), firing .30-caliber Winchester rifles through slots in a wall that is 25 feet away.

Marty Carpenter, a spokesman for Herbert, released a statement saying that while lethal injection is the preferred method, the state of Utah feels obligated to execute individuals by the date listed on their death warrant.

We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued,” Carpenter said. “However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.

Carpenter also claimed that those who voiced opposition to the bill were “primarily arguing against capital punishment in general.”

State Representative Stephen Handy (R), who is in opposition to the bill, told Reuters that the thought of a firing squad “sends a horrible message from the state of Utah.”

The Washington Post reported that Utah, which currently has no lethal injection drugs, has eight inmates on its death row, and three have selected death by firing squad as their method of execution.

ACLU Attorney Says Graphic Video of Officers Shooting Homeless Man Resembles “Firing Squad”

Warning: the above video contains graphic footage that some viewers may find disturbing.

On July 1, 2012, 49-year-old homeless man Milton Hall slipped off the medication that he used to control his mental illness, got into an argument with a shopkeeper, and stole a cup of coffee. Police were called, and the visibly disoriented Hall ended up in the parking lot of a shopping center in a standoff with eight Saginaw, MI police officers. The officers surrounded him at a distance with guns drawn. Hall attempted to call 911 to open a line of dialogue. When a K-9 unit lurched at Hall and snarled, he pulled a pen knife from his pocket. Officers responded by firing 46 shots, fatally hitting Hall 14 times.

In February of this year, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice concluded its investigation into the officers’ use of deadly force and declined to press charges against them. MLive quoted a joint statement by the DOJ, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, which said, “After a thorough investigation, federal authorities have determined that this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to lead to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved.” The investigation had been launched in response to the widespread community outrage that followed Hall’s shooting, which happened in a busy shopping center in broad daylight.

Unsatisfied with this outcome, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan presented Hall’s case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last Monday and released the above-embedded graphic dash cam video of the shooting, which ACLU lawyer Mark Fancher described as resembling a “firing squad.” According to NY Daily News, the ACLU obtained the video from attorneys representing Hall’s family. Audio included from a different bystander’s video recording, seen below and originally released around the time of the incident, appears to capture witnesses loudly protesting and questioning the need for the overwhelming use of deadly force. Some observers have asked why less-lethal alternatives were not used to subdue Hall.

Mark Fancher represented the Hall family and the ACLU of Michigan at Monday’s hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which, as an arm of the inter-continental Organization of American States, lacks legal authority to take action on the issue. The ACLU of Michigan’s legal director Michael Steinberg told Newsweek that his group took the case before an international tribunal in an effort to pressure the US government into abiding by “human rights principles.”

Newsweek quoted Milton’s mother Jewel Hall as saying, “It’s been devastating to our family; it was devastating to the community. And justice still has not been served… There needs to be a change in how police deal with situations like the one that ended my son’s life. Our leaders have to address conditions that allow police to use excessive and deadly force with impunity.”