Earlier this year, several questions surrounded the administration of lethal injection as a form of capital punishment. In Arizona, Oklahoma, and Ohio, three lethal injections went gruesomely bad. The execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio took 26 minutes after the final shot was administered while Clayton Lockett of Oklahoma required 43 minutes to die after the lethal cocktail was administered to him. Perhaps most disturbing was the death of Joseph Wood of Arizona, who gasped for air every five to 12 seconds until he was finally pronounced dead an hour and a half later.
Because of the graphic nature of the deaths, debate started to surround lethal injection and if it might be less humane than originally thought. Some would go so far as to say that certain drug cocktails were a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.
Because of this concern, there is speculation that the drugs necessary to perform a legal injection may become difficult, if not impossible to receive, either due to a national ban or because manufacturers of such drugs do not want to take the risk of running afoul of the Constitution.
Of course there is quite a bit of discussion surrounding the death penalty in general, but short of an all-out ban on the death penalty, the reality is that our system requires that the court ruling are fully performed, even to their ultimate end. So, if the only option on the books is suddenly removed through practical means, it poses a serious problem for the judicial branch.
Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield) is attempting to find a work around to this potential problem with HB 11 – Death Penalty Procedure Amendments.
For the state of Utah, the default option of performing an execution is through lethal injection. If such a method becomes impractical, the state will have no way to fully perform the ultimate power we have granted to the judicial branch – firing squads are only allowed if the convicted requests it or if lethal injection is, in fact, found to be unconstitutional. No provision currently exists if the drugs necessary to perform the lethal injection become unavailable.
Ray’s bill acts as a sort of backup under this circumstance, stating that, if the state is unable to legally obtain the drugs necessary to perform the execution within 30 days of the scheduled execution, the state will perform the execution via firing squad.
Again, discussions of capital punishment aside, the reality is that systems have to be in place to fulfill the ruling of the court. Ray’s bill provides the necessary provisions to achieve this end in the event that the state cannot perform the specifics of a ruling due to outside decisions. To that end, Ray is preventing the state from future problems that could theoretically arise.
To contact Representative Ray, Click Here or call 801-725-2719
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