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Utah lawmakers OK firing squads, send bill to governor

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has not confirmed whether he will sign the measure.

By
Kate Stanton

SALT LAKE CITY, March 11 (UPI) -- Utah lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow the state to execute death row inmates by firing squad as a backup to lethal injection drugs.

The bill, which passed 18-10 in the Senate Tuesday, now awaits Gov. Gary Herbert's signature.

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Herbert has not said whether he will sign the measure into law. But his office said in a statement that Utah "is finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the substances required to perform a lethal injection."

"We are dedicated to pursuing all reasonable and legal options to obtain those substances to make sure that, when required, we are in a position to carry out this very serious sentence by lethal injection," the statement added.

The measure, titled HB11, allows the state to use a firing squad if lethal injection drugs are not available 30 days before a planned execution.

Utah's House of Representatives narrowly passed the bill 39-34 in February.

Rep. Paul Ray, one of the bill's sponsors, argued that lethal injection drugs, which have led to a number of high-profile botched executions, could end up costing Utah "millions" in legal fees.

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"We are facing a situation where we are going to have to go to court, and it's going to cost millions of dollars for the state of Utah to defend what we're doing," Ray said.

Utah gave inmates the choice to die by firing squad until 2004.

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