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Firing squad bill passes committee

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Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-03 13:27:08-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- In 2010, convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad at the Draper State Prison.

Monday, Randy Gardner publicly condemned the practice that killed his brother.

“I got a chance to look at my brother’s chest after he was shot, and I could have stuck all four fingers right in his chest. I have no idea what his back looked like,” said Randy Gardner. “I’m sure it blew his heart out his back. To me, that is totally cruel and unusual punishment.”

He was one of several who spoke out against a proposal that would bring back Utah’s firing squad, which was outlawed in 2004.

“If we really want to look at the most humane, the fastest way to execute somebody is either a hanging or the firing squad,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

Under the proposal, the firing squad would only be used as an alternative method when the lethal injection “cocktail” is unavailable.

While the plan had no trouble passing a Senate committee 4-1, it stirred an even broader debate. The committee voted to ask an interim committee to review Utah’s death penalty policy this summer.

“Every time you open code on any topic, it’s an opportunity to discuss the policy that we currently have in place. The excuse that, ‘Oh, we’re not addressing that right now, we’re just addressing the method,’ doesn’t mean that it makes it right,” said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.

Ray’s bill now heads to the full Senate for further debate.