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Mississippi House passes bill for executions by gas chamber, firing squad

By
Eric DuVall
Death penalty opponents protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal court challenges to the most commonly used lethal injection protocol for state executions led Mississippi lawmakers this week to pass a bill reintroducing the gas chamber, electric chair and a firing squad if lethal injection executions are deemed unconstitutional. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI.
Death penalty opponents protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal court challenges to the most commonly used lethal injection protocol for state executions led Mississippi lawmakers this week to pass a bill reintroducing the gas chamber, electric chair and a firing squad if lethal injection executions are deemed unconstitutional. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI. | License Photo

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in the Mississippi House of Representatives have passed a bill that could reintroduce the gas chamber, firing squad and electric chair to execute prisoners on death row.

The last prisoner to be executed in Mississippi was in 2012, after which federal rulings on the constitutionality of the most common lethal injection protocol, combined with court challenges at the state level, have held off any state executions, though 47 prisoners remain on death row.

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Under a bill passed in the state House 74-43, if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional, a series of other forms of execution would be used, unless they, too, are deemed cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

As written, the legislation first states lethal injection should be used. After that, a nitrogen gas chamber would be employed, followed by a firing squad and finally the electric chair.

Mississippi has used lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia and the electric chair at times during its history, officials said, though all executions since 1984 have been by injection. Utah also employs a firing squad as a means of capital punishment, but only if chosen by the inmate over lethal injection. The last time a prisoner was executed by gunfire was in 2010.

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The bill is supported by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It has not been taken up by the state Senate.

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