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Utah to re-examine firing squad penalty

Feb. 19, 2004 at 9:52 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A proposal to eliminate the firing squad from Utah executions sparked a full-fledged debate on death penalty in the state Senate.

Senators gave preliminary approval to a House bill on a tenuous 17-9 vote, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

The strongest defense of Utah's firing squad came from Sen. Dave Thomas(R), who repeatedly referred to his credentials as a former "death penalty litigator."

Eliminating the firing squad "leaves us with [only] lethal injection -- the most painless way to die," said Thomas. "We're making it too easy on the convicted killers."

Sen. Ron Allen(D) said the bill, which already has passed the House, is primarily aimed at ending the "media circus" that occurs when the firing squad is activated.

But Thomas countered that worldwide attention on Utah executions is not a bad thing.

"When we talk about this media circus -- that's exactly what we want," he said. Death by firing squad, he added, sends a clear message that "you don't come to the state of Utah to commit these crimes."

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