FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Utah Fired Up for Executions

by SEAN CARTER

For fans of the death penalty, June is shaping up to be a banner month. As usual, executions are scheduled in Texas and Oklahoma. However, June is special because Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Utah have all scheduled executions as well.

In fact, Utah, which has not executed anyone since 1996, has scheduled executions on consecutive days in June. Amazingly, both executions will take place using firing squads. Of course, you would think that, in 21st century America, executions by firing squad would have gone the way of break dancing and Geraldo Rivera’s career as a war correspondent.

However, in this case, both inmates chose to face a firing squad. When I first heard this story on the evening news, my question was, “What was their other option – crucifixion?” However, it turns out that both inmates could have chosen lethal injection instead.

However, both inmates are choosing to face a firing squad as a way of making a statement. That statement is “I’m nuts!” In fairness, it’s hard to be rational when faced with two equally horrendous choices. After all, asking a man to choose between lethal injection and a firing squad is like asking him to choose between being married to Leona Helmsley or Zsa Zsa Gabor. In either case, the only hope for the man is that he dies quickly.

That being the case, perhaps the real crazy people here are the Utah legislators who still allow for this outmoded form of execution. Of the 42 states that have the death penalty, only 3 states (Idaho, Oklahoma and Utah) allow for the use of a firing squad. However, in Idaho and Oklahoma, the firing squad is only used as a last-ditch effort.

For instance, in Idaho, lethal injection is the preferred method of execution and a firing squad will only be used when lethal injection is “impractical.” In other words, if all the doctors in Idaho (all six of them) are away at a doctor’s conference in the Bahamas, then the firing squad will be assembled.

Likewise, in Oklahoma, lethal injection is the preferred method of execution. However, the legislature has provided that if lethal injection and electrocution are ever ruled unconstitutional, then the firing squad will be called out. This is bizarre even by Oklahoma standards. I hate to be the one to break it to them but if lethal injection is ever ruled to be “cruel and unusual punishment,” then the firing squad doesn’t stand a chance.

Of course, the real question is why would any state still rely on a firing squad when there are more modern methods of execution like lethal injection, lethal gas or riding in a car driven by Rodney King? The firing squad is not only disturbing in principle but it’s even more disturbing in application.

For one, the shooters are not employees of the Utah Corrections Department. The shooters are police officers who volunteer for this duty. Now, I will admit that I don’t have the most exciting life but even I can think of something better to do on my day off. Whatever happened to gardening, spending a day at the beach with the family or just nursing a bad hangover?

Obviously, any police officer who would volunteer for this duty must feel that he isn’t getting enough “action” on the street. I’m not sure this is the kind of person we want stopping motorists on a dark highway at 3 a.m.

However, perhaps even more strange is that special safeguards are put into place to protect the volunteer shooters from possible remorse in the future. At the appointed time, five shooters simultaneously fire a single bullet at a target on the chest of the inmate. However, one of the guns is secretly loaded with a blank. As a result, no man can know for sure whether he fired the fatal bullet.

Now maybe it’s just me but I don’t get it. For one, these officers volunteered for the assignment. Second, we don’t take similar precautions for prison officials who “throw the switch” on the electric chair. We don’t set up several fake switches so that the real switch thrower isn’t traumatized for the life. I guess for $8.75 an hour you’re expected to live with a little remorse.

Perhaps it’s time for Utah to join the 37 other states that rely primarily on lethal injection (and terrible prison food) to kill inmates. The application of the death penalty is troubling enough already. There’s no need to add more fuel to the firing squad.

SEAN CARTER is a lawyer, comedian, public speaker and the author of If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? Your Humorous Guide to the Law. He can be reached at www.lawpsided.com.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail