Should States Authorize Other Methods of Execution Such as Hanging or the Firing Squad?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Laurel Wamsley, reporter for NPR’s News Desk, in a May 19, 2021 article, “With Lethal Injections Harder To Come By, Some States Are Turning To Firing Squads,” available at npr.org, stated:
“Lethal injection is the preferred method of execution in states that have the death penalty. But in recent years, they’ve had difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs as pharmaceutical companies blocked their drugs from being used in executions…
Some states… have tried to obtain the drugs either on the gray market or through subterfuge.
Some states have switched to drugs they can obtain through compounding pharmacies — though pharmacy associations have adopted resolutions urging their members not to facilitate in executions.
Many states have halted executions, whether by abolishing the death penalty or by simply not carrying out executions.
And a few states have turned to alternative methods of execution.”May 19, 2021
Hailey Fuchs, New York Times reporter in the Washington Bureau, in a Nov. 25, 2020 article, “New Rule Would Allow U.S. to Use More Methods for Executions,” available at nytimes.com, stated:
“All states that use the death penalty allow execution by lethal injection, according to the rule. Some also authorize other means. For example, Alabama allows the prisoner to elect a death by electrocution or nitrogen hypoxia (a lethal dose of gas) instead of lethal injection. A law signed by the governor of Utah in 2015 states that a firing squad shall be used to execute an inmate if substances for lethal injection are unavailable on the scheduled date…
States have already struggled to obtain suitable drugs for their lethal injection protocols. Several years ago, reports of high-profile botched executions, which involved prisoners who reportedly gasped or writhed in pain, prompted new scrutiny over the death penalty.”Nov. 25, 2020
Jasmine Sharma, JD, attorney, in the 2019 article, “Lethal Attack on Lethal Injection: A Proposal to End the Final Loophole in the Death Penalty Debate,” available at openscholarship.wustl.edu, stated:
“Since 2017 state corrections have become desperate to get their hands on lethal injection drugs to continue with execution timelines. As European and other developed nations have come out against capital punishment in their own systems and admonished the United States for continuing to execute death row inmates, large drug manufacturers have followed suit for strategic business reasons, as well as moral and ethical considerations. As large drug manufacturers, which are subject to the FDA regulations standards, refused to sell lethal injection drugs to state corrections that were executing inmates, state corrections reacted in a myriad of ways. First, state corrections attempted to get compounding pharmacies, which are pharmacies that are only subject to state licensing boards that mix and compound generic drugs, to make lethal injection drugs to execute inmates. Unsurprisingly, since compounding pharmacies are not subject to FDA regulations, the drugs that these compounding pharmacies release into the public are less safe as a result of fewer regulations and more unsafe practices. These unsafe practices have led to many botched and highly controversial executions. Second, state legislatures and other state leaders attempted to shield their lethal injection protocols, including the types of drugs they use, how they were made, and where they come from under broad secrecy laws within each jurisdiction. This meant that inmates who sued under the First Amendment for the right to know what substance was used to execute them were unsuccessful.”2019
Stephanie Moran, Executive Editor of the University of Miami Law Review and 2020 JD candidate, in the 2019 article, A Modest Proposal: The Federal Government Should Use Firing Squads to Execute,” available at law.miami.edu, stated:
“The last person to be executed by firing squads exercised his ability to choose his method because he believed firing squads were the only dignified way to die. Furthermore, in Tennessee, a state where inmates have the choice of electrocution or lethal injection, of the last five executions carried out, three were by electrocution. Of the two that chose lethal injection, one reportedly coughed, gasped, and choked throughout his execution, and the other sang for two minutes after being administered the first drug, fell silent, turned purple, and let out a gasp.
By allowing inmates to choose how they wish to be executed, not only do we avoid post-execution claims of inhumanness, but we allow inmates to choose the method they deem most humane. The Eighth Amendment protects the inmate, not the lawmakers deciding what method of execution should be used. As a result, the most humane option is to allow the inmate to choose the method he deems the least painful, most reliable, or most humane because he is the one protected by the Eighth Amendment. If we are going to continue to be concerned with executions appearing humane, allowing death row inmates to choose how they will be executed is the most humane option.”2019
Dick Harpootlian, JD, South Carolina State Senator (D), as quoted by Andrea Salcedo in the Mar. 3, 2021 article, “South Carolina Could Force Death Row Inmates to Choose between Electric Chair, Firing Squad,” available at washingtonpost.com, stated:
“They’re dead instantly [with the use of the firing squad]. The actual pain and suffering of death, it’s actually the least painful and the least suffering of any manner of death. [Conversely, the electric chair is a] horrible, horrible thing to do to another human being [because] they are burned to death.”Mar. 3, 2021
Greg Hembree, JD, South Carolina State Senator (R), as quoted by Andrea Salcedo in the Mar. 3, 2021 article, “South Carolina Could Force Death Row Inmates to Choose between Electric Chair, Firing Squad,” available at washingtonpost.com, stated:
“For several years, as most of you know, South Carolina has not been able to carry out executions. Families are waiting, victims are waiting, the state is waiting…
Carrying out justice is important. But you don’t want to torture anybody needlessly. That’s not the government’s place.Mar. 3, 2021
Henry McMaster, JD, Governor of South Carolina, in a May 5, 2021 twitter thread that included a link to the The State article by Emily Bohatch, “SC House Passes Bill Bringing Back Electric Chair, Introducing Firing Squad,” stated:
“The S.C House has given second reading to a bill that will restore the state’s ability to carry out the death penalty [by authorizing the use of the electric chair and firing squad]. We are one step closer to providing victims’ families and loved ones with the justice and closure they are owed by law. I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk.”May 5, 2021
Lindsey Vann, JD, Executive Director of Justice 360, as quoted by Jeffrey Collins in a May 17, 2021 article, “New Law Makes Inmates Choose Electric Chair or Firing Squad,” available at apnews.com. stated:
“These are execution methods that previously were replaced by lethal injection, which is considered more humane, and it makes South Carolina the only state going back to the less humane execution methods.”May 17, 2021
Todd Rutherford, JD, South Carolina State Representative (D), in a May 5, 2021 tweet from the SC House Democrats twitter account, stated:
“Today, the House passed a bill that brings back firing squads and the electric chair to conduct executions.
Once again, the Republican Party has shown its true colors. Being ‘pro-life’ is a position they take to score political points when it’s convenient.
Today, they passed a bill that can only be described as pro-death. A bill that would bring back the electric chair and firing squads to carry out executions.
It’s 2021. We should move on from these barbaric forms of punishment that are more medieval than they are modern. Today, our state has taken a step backward and I am ashamed.”May 5, 2021
Dale Baich, JD, Assistant Federal Public Defender in Arizona, as quoted by Molly Longman in a July 16, 2020 article, “The Death Penalty Is Always Inhumane — And Lethal Injections Are No Exception,” available at refinery29.com, stated:
“The alternative [to lethal injection] is life without the possibility of parole. If that person is never going to get out of prison, that is an effective punishment… They have experimented with different drug combinations, and what we know from the experts is that the combinations and the single-use drug still cause pain and cause suffering.”July 16, 2020
Austin Sarat, PhD, JD, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College, in a May 18, 2021 article, “Return of Firing Squads Shows Death Penalty and Its ‘Machinery’ Are Grinding to a Halt,” available at usatoday.com, stated:
“South Carolina’s governor just signed a law adding the firing squad to the state’s arsenal of execution methods. It requires inmates on death row to choose the firing squad or the electric chair (long an alternative in South Carolina) if lethal injection drugs are not available.
Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah are the only other states that authorize use of the firing squad as a means to put someone to death. South Carolina has not executed anyone since 2011, but it now has 37 men on death row. Three of them have exhausted all appeals.
This revival of a previously discredited execution method shows the lengths to which death penalty supporters will go to keep the machinery of death running. Yet, at a time when support for the death penalty is waning in the United States, their turn to firing squads signals the weakness of America’s death penalty, not its strength.
Reviving firing squads shatters the illusion of technological progress in the business of putting people to death that has long played a key role in maintaining capital punishment’s legitimacy…
Its revival is just the latest sign that the United States cannot resolve the ongoing conflict between modern notions of humaneness and continuation of capital punishment. The time has come for this country to abandon that effort and, as Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun put it, ‘no longer tinker with the machinery of death.'”May 18, 2021