The Constitution bans “Cruel and unusual punishment” But just what does that mean? When the constitution was written, many countries including our Motherland, Great Britain, still had such punishments as being drawn and quartered and Keel Hauling on the books as accepted punishments. But we in the new United States wanted to be more civilized and uphold the rights of a person to be respected, even in death.
For years, liberal lawyers have fought in the courts saying that the death penalty itself was cruel and unusual, but that argument has pretty much fallen by the wayside until now the focus is on just how we take someones life that has taken the life of someone else. While many states have been using lethal injections in their death chambers, On state has gone back to the old fashioned way. In upcoming weeks, Utah will execute three inmates by firing squad for the first time since the method was reinstated in 2015 by Gov. Gary Herbert.
Firing squad is not mandatory but it is an option given to condemed prisoners. In these three cases, all the condemned, Taberon Dave Honie, Troy Michael Kell, and Ralph Leroy Menzies, have chosen the firing squad instead of the more traditional lethal injection of sodium thiopental and potassium chloride.
All the criminals have been convicted of First degree murder and one, Taberon Honie, was also found guilty of raping his ex-girlfriend’s mother in front of her grandchildren. The execution dates for the three convicted felons have not yet been set.
Utah’s reintroduction of the firing squad comes in the middle of a national debate over the death penalty. The method was brought back in part because of a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs after several companies said they would stop selling them to states using them for capital punishment.
In March, the Utah Department of Corrections released part of its technical manual for the execution process. In it, the state outlines how individuals who volunteer to be in the firing squad must first complete three rehearsals, be licensed law enforcement officers and pass a firearms proficiency test.
Oklahoma and Utah are the only two states with a firing squad option for death row inmates. Lawmakers in Oklahoma also introduced a method where the condemned wears a mask that is pumped with nitrogen gas until the inmate dies from oxygen deprivation.
Other states, like Mississippi and South Carolina, have introduced bills to bring back older, alternative methods, like the electric chair, because of drug shortages.