SALT LAKE CITY, March 24 (UPI) -- Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert signed a bill Monday that allows execution by firing squad if lethal-injection drugs are not available.
The new legislation comes amid a nationwide shortage of the drug cocktail used to carry out lethal injection, forcing states to come up with alternate methods to carry out executions. Utah has eight inmates on death row and has not carried out a lethal injection since 1999. The state has no supply of lethal-injection drugs.
"We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued," a spokesman for Herbert, a Republican, said in a written statement. "However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch."
In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have pulled back on sales of the drug mixture, saying they are uneasy about the use. The U.S. Supreme Court is also considering challenges from death row inmates who question the drug use in Oklahoma.
In 2004, Utah repealed the use of firing squads, with the exception for people sentenced to death before the law went into effect. The last execution by firing squad happened in 2010.