Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]