Missouri lawmakers push bill to allow firing squad executions

Jan. 19, 2014 at 8:12 PM   |   0 comments

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Some lawmakers in Missouri say they want to allow the state to execute death row inmates by firing squad.

Current law in Missouri allows for execution by lethal injection or gas. A bill before the Missouri House would allow executions to be conducted by a firing squad of five law enforcement officers chosen by the state corrections director, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday.

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, who introduced the firing squad measure, said it would allow executions to be carried out should lethal drugs become unavailable. Some pharmaceutical companies have moved to halt the use of their drugs for executions.

"A firing squad would be quick and something we could do at a moment's notice," Brattin said. "My opinion is they would suffer less than with lethal injection."

A co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, said his rationale for wanting executions carried out by firing squad is that the murder victim doesn't get to take an injection to die, the Post-Dispatch said

"People look at inmates who will be executed as victims," Fitzwater said. "But the real victims have no voice because they are gone."

Brattin sees it the same way, saying death row inmates "are getting off easy compared to the heinous crimes they committed."

Rita Linhardt of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, calls firing squads a "barbaric procedure."

"All [executions] are barbaric, but [a firing squad] goes even beyond that," Linhardt said. "With the evolving standard of decency, the people of Missouri would not want to do it."

The Death Penalty Information Center notes only three of the more than 1,300 inmates executed since a U.S. moratorium on executions was lifted in 1976 were killed by firing squad, all in Utah where it is now banned, though a few inmates already on death row could still be put to death that way.

Oklahoma allows the use of a firing squad as an alternative to lethal injection.

The newspaper noted a Wyoming lawmaker also is pursuing firing-squad legislation.

Because of the availability issue, Missouri has switched from a three-drug method to a single drug it obtained from an unidentified pharmacy, the Post-Dispatch said.

While it's unclear whether the firing-squad bill will advance in the Legislature, state lawmakers will hold a hearing Tuesday to look into allegations the Department of Corrections used an unlicensed pharmacy to make its lethal injection drug and executed a prisoner before his appeals ran out.

A bill filed by Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, would create a commission to study the state's death penalty procedure.

Missouri's next execution is slated or Jan. 29, when Herbert Smulls of St. Louis is to be put to death for the 1991 murder of Chesterfield jeweler Stephen Honickman. It would be the state's third execution since November, the Post-Dispatch said.

Topics: John Rizzo
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