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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Proposed Legislation in Wyoming, Missouri Raises Questions About Capital Punishment

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 10:21 AM

click to enlarge Wyoming Sen. Bruce Burns has introduced legislation that would permit the state to execute condemned prisoners by firing squad. - ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Associated Press
  • Wyoming Sen. Bruce Burns has introduced legislation that would permit the state to execute condemned prisoners by firing squad.


Legislators in Wyoming and Missouri have proposed legislation that would allow reinstating some old-school methods of capital punishment, the Associated Press reports.

Republican Sen. Bruce Burns of Wyoming said state law requires that a gas chamber be used in the event that the lethal injection execution method is unavailable, but he doesn't support paying to build a state-run gas chamber in the event that lethal injection drugs are unavailable or ineffective. Instead, Burns has proposed a bill that would allow the state to execute condemned prisoners by firing squad.

"The state of Wyoming doesn't have a gas chamber currently, an operating gas chamber, so the procedure and expense to build one would be impractical to me," he said.

In Missouri, a House bill proposed this month by state Republican Rep. Rick Brattin would also permit the use of firing squads to execute the condemned. 

"This isn't an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild West or anything like that. It's just that I foresee a problem, and I'm trying to come up with a solution that will be the most humane yet most economical for our state," Brattin said.

These proposals come at a crucial moment in the ongoing debate over capital punishment. Earlier this month, condemned prisoner Dennis McGuire, who was convicted in Ohio of the 1989 rape and murder of a 22-year-old pregnant woman, took 15 minutes to die by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The execution was conducted with a new, untested lethal-injection cocktail, and eyewitnesses said McGuire struggled and gasped in his final moments.

Questions have been raised about the humanity and effectiveness of contemporary methods of capital punishment, and some lawmakers have responded by introducing legislation that would allow states greater latitude in choosing execution methods.

Idaho banned execution by firing squad in 2009. The last execution by firing squad took place in 2010 on Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah. Currently the only state that accepts the firing squad as a method of execution is Oklahoma but only if lethal injection methods are unavailable. 





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