Utah governor signs firing squad bill into law

Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-24 09:37:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert has signed a bill bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah.

In a statement Monday, the governor’s office said he signed House Bill 11, which establishes the firing squad as a method of execution should lethal injection drugs not be available. The governor’s office defended the decision in a statement to FOX 13.

“Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state,” said governor’s spokesman Marty Carpenter. “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. However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing the lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.”

HB11, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has faced vocal opposition. Last week, a petition with thousands of signatures was delivered to the governor’s office asking for a veto. 

In an interview with FOX 13 on the last night of the legislative session, the governor indicated that he would sign HB11 into law. 

Death by firing squad is a backup method only. The Utah Department of Corrections has told FOX 13 that currently, it does not have the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection.

MORE: Three inmates on Utah’s death row say they want to die by firing squad.

Utah is not the only state with the firing squad. Oklahoma also has it, should lethal injection or electrocution be declared unconstitutional. The Utah State Legislature has agreed to have a discussion about whether to remain a capital punishment state in the interim session this year.

HB11 was among dozens signed by Governor Herbert on Monday. They include:

  • HB74, which declares that sex with an unconscious person is rape;
  • HB226, which allows the state to set stricter clean air standards than the federal government;
  • HB72, which means it is no longer a crime to take a “selfie” with your ballot (it remains a crime to photograph someone else’s ballot);
  • HB447, making sex education in Utah schools “opt-in;”
  • HB79, making it so police can pull you over for not wearing your seat belt.

See a full list of the bills signed by Governor Herbert here.