‘Let’s do it.’
I can’t imagine any death-row inmate choosing lethal injection. Sure, if the choice is between the notoriously unreliable and undeniably painful electric chair or some fatal cocktail I’d leap for the syringe. But what if one of the choices is to stand in the open air and brace against a bullet through the heart? Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I’d take the instant and dramatic gunshot over feeling my life ebb away in the cold, sterile air of an indoor execution chamber. Not to mention recent accounts of botched injections that required additional doses or observable pain in those last breaths.
This article in the Times about the last bastion of firing squad executions made me imagine the scenarios for the first time since Colonel Aureliano. A prisoner, Ronnie Lee Gardner, sat on death-row for 25 years – first electing the firing squad and later switching back and forth from lethal injection. This summer he may be the first man executed by rifle in nearly fifteen years. Here’s what warrants investigation:
Utah is phasing out firing squads because of the media attention and bad image they cause, legislators and corrections officials said.
It’s the last state in the US to not give in fully to lethal injections, and I can’t understand why that would be the case. What negative media coverage could there be that isn’t equally damaging to the use of the needle? Are there genuinely balanced portraits of the two options? I can’t help but feel like the stigma owes more to the association of murder with guns, while the science of a chemical concoction alleviates some of the barbarism. At the end of the day you’re still ending a life, and excepting the possibility of pain I don’t believe that the means should be of significance to anyone but the executioner and executed.
Maybe it’s because of the idealized images from films of a lone man, blindfolded, a cigarette hanging, standing tall before the bullets fly that this seems like a no-brainer. There’s something insidious and inhuman about the injection, and something classic and passionate about the firing squad. Or so I thought before this passage from the article that redrew the image in my mind:
Procedures for the last two such executions in Utah, which officials said would largely be followed with Mr. Gardner, had five unidentified officers using identical .30-30 hunting rifles from a distance of about 20 feet. One rifle — which one unknown to the shooters — was loaded with a blank. The condemned man was strapped into a seat while wearing a black jumpsuit and a hood, with a white cloth circle placed over his heart to provide a target.
Can you imagine being one of the gunmen? Or the hooded man in black? If someone hasn’t written that play or made that movie, it’s as arresting a setup as I’ve heard in a long time.
can they choose?
also, death by firing squad does not stipulate careful aim.
I think the assumption is that they aim carefully. Presumably that factors into the selection process. Although I just read that the previous firing squad execution in Utah consisted of policemen that volunteered from the county where the crime was committed.
And yeah, up until 2004 the inmates could choose in Utah.
Well, what gets me about choosing a firing squad, is that if you’ve seen that show “I survived” than you know some people are just going to live through gunshots. Multiple gunshots. And the thought of continuing to shoot someone over and over again and watching their body ripple with bullets is actually horrible. Probably as horrible as injecting them over and over again, but I feel like the injection may leave a less guilty feeling for everyone involved because it seems so scientific. You know? I think that’s lame. But also, the people being killed usually killed their victims in more painful and horrible ways than those forms of execution. I kind of like the idea of having those people executed the same way they executed their victims. But then again, I also believe in abortion, and I don’t really believe in God.
This post made me smile. Lovin that darkness. I really just like the idea of someone sentenced to death getting to choose how they die. And the idea of an executioner, because yikes.
I used to think I should die in a shower of bullets. So I understand your choice. Even if they missed, getting shot has to feel better than being electrocuted. How about hanging? Any states that still do that?
I don’t really believe in the death penalty. I’d feel much more comfortable letting someone rot in prison and/or be tortured by their fellow inmates. It’s super harsh when they execute you for something like drug trafficking in a place like Singapore, but I guess the moral of that story is don’t be around drugs in Asia. In Saudi Arabia, they have a sort of ‘get what you give’ policy. The victim/family of the victim also gets to decide the fate.
I like the mythology of execution — the stuff from folklore, mostly. “Jack Ketch” is about as close as America ever got to somebody awesome, but the Greeks were not afraid to have someone executed by having his liver eaten every day by a Roc.
Time to read about execution w/r/t myth! Wikipedia!