Firing squad bill passes the Senate, heads to governor for signature

Posted at 6:23 PM, Mar 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-10 20:45:57-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate passed a bill that would bring back the firing squad in Utah as a method of execution.

In an 18-10 vote, the Senate approved House Bill 11, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, which would bring the firing squad back as a backup method of execution, should the primary method of lethal injection be unavailable.

MORE: 3 inmates in Utah say they want to die by firing squad

The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.  In a statement to FOX 13, the governor’s office said:

“As a general practice, Gov. Herbert does not commit to action on a bill until he has reviewed the final version that has passed both the House and the Senate. He is, however, willing to discuss the principles by which he evaluates legislation.

“In the state of Utah, aggravated murder is a crime punishable by death. This is a sentence that was determined to be appropriate for crimes where a life was taken in an especially heinous and aggravated manner and was enacted by our Legislature with the support of their constituents. Accordingly, in those cases, as a state, we ask a jury to make the difficult decision to impose the death sentence. When a jury makes that decision and a judge signs a warrant enforcing that lawful decision, we have an obligation to make sure the order can be carried out. Our statute is clear that lethal injection is the method by which that will happen. We have no intent to change that.  

“Our Department of Corrections is conscientious and dedicated to making sure that they are able to carry out the order in that manner. However, our state, as is the case with states around the country, is finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the substances required to perform a lethal injection. We are dedicated to pursuing all reasonable and legal options to obtain those substances to make sure that, when required, we are in a position to carry out this very serious sentence by lethal injection. However, if those substances cannot be obtained, this proposal would make sure that those instructed to carry out the lawful order of the court and the carefully deliberated decision of the jury can do so.”  

The firing squad has been highly controversial in the Utah State Legislature. After it passed out of the Senate, lawmakers agreed to study whether or not to continue to have capital punishment in Utah.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Utah and Oklahoma are the only states with firing squad as a method of execution.