Utah becomes first state to allow executions by firing squad

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law Monday a measure that allows the state to perform executions with a firing squad if lethal drugs are unavailable.

Herbert signed the measure despite having until April 1 to make a decision. He had been on the fence about the issue, but leaned toward signing it, saying the state needs a fallback method.

Public opinion had been split on the issue. In fact, over the weekend the governor received hundreds of letters urging him to either support the measure or veto it.

“Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state,” said Marty Carpenter, spokesman for Gov. Herbert.

“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,” he said. “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 total, 34 states use capital punishment. All those states use lethal injection as the primary method of execution. Eight states have electrocution as a secondary method for execution, four use the gas chamber, three use hanging and two use the firing squad.

State lawmakers passed the Death Penalty Procedure Amendments on March 10 and sent it to the governor’s office two days later.