Well, that certainly didn’t take long. After last month’s botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, due in no small part to the secretive recipe of the fatal cocktail, a legislator in another conservative state is suggesting we go back to the days of the firing squad. With production of the killer ingredients halted in the US and foreign suppliers opting not to sell to those who intend to kill prisoners with them, Departments of Corrections around the country have found themselves in a bit of a quandry.
Lockett, whose attorneys had sought a stay of execution on the grounds that not knowing which drugs were to be used constituted possibly cruel and inhuman practice, died approximately 30 minutes after the botched execution caused his femoral artery to collapse leading to the heart attack that killed him. During administration of the fatal pharmaceuticals, it was reported that Lockett stirred from his unconsciousness and began claiming something was wrong and that he was in pain and felt intense burning.
So what are other states to do when they see they can no longer guarantee a humane death by injection? Well, according to Utah Republican state legislator Paul Ray, what was good enough for the 1800’s is good enough for 2014. Ray said:
“It sounds like the Wild West, but it’s probably the most humane way to kill somebody.”
For Utah, it really doesn’t date all the way back to the Wild West. That state outlawed the practice in 2004. That’s right, as a death row prisoner, you could opt for the firing squad up until a decade ago. Those on death row before the outlaw need not worry though. They are grandfathered in to the firing squad if they so choose. That is why Utah’s last execution by the bullet was in 2010.
“Of course, though Ray claims a shot to the heart is the most humane way to kill a prisoner, it isn’t as foolproof a method as he might make out. If the prisoner moves during the execution, bullets could miss their heart altogether. One such incident left a prisoner writhing in agony for 27 minutes before finally succumbing to the multiple gunshot wounds he had received.
Each of our trusty execution options have had their failings. Whether the firing squad, hangings, gas chambers, electrocutions or lethal injections, each has provided a macabre glimpse into what can happen when we choose to play God. The most humane thing we can do for our prisoners, for our society and for our consciences is to eradicate the blood lust we too often enjoy when we seek to exact retribution for someone’s wrongs.