The firing squad could be coming back to Utah

Posted at 11:16 AM, Nov 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-20 00:19:18-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawmakers have given a preliminary nod to bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, proposed the bill that would bring back the firing squad only in the event that lethal injection was not available. Ray told the Utah State Legislature's interim law enforcement and criminal justice committee that he was being proactive.

"It gives us some maneuverability," Ray told the committee.

Lethal injection has come under fire as a method of execution after botched executions.

"I don't know if you'd call them botched," Ray told the committee. "I wish we could have found a way to make it longer, not shorter on his death to be honest with you. These are heinous people."

Ray said the European company that makes lethal injection drugs has also refused to sell the cocktail because it is opposed to the death penalty.

Utah did away with the firing squad as a primary method of execution in 2003, but some death row inmates are grandfathered in. The last firing squad execution was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010.

MORE: At least 3 inmates in Utah want to die by firing squad

Some lawmakers on the committee were skeptical of the idea.

"What problem does this solve?" Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, asked.

"A long, drawn out legal battle," Ray replied.

Jean Hill of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese spoke out in opposition of the bill, calling it inhumane. The Catholic Diocese said it is opposed to the death penalty.

"The state's role is not to take revenge on people," she told the committee. "The state's role is public safety."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes no position on capital punishment.

The bill passed out of the interim committee on a 9-2 vote. It will now go on to the full Utah State Legislature for consideration.

In an interview with FOX 13, Ray acknowledged that if legal issues continue and lethal injection is found to be unconstitutional, the firing squad could become the primary method of execution in Utah.