How are the members of a firing squad chosen for an execution, like the one that’s coming up in Utah?

It’s a question posited by one Lex Marsh of Englewood, Colorado, re: the forthcoming execution of Ronnie Lee Gardener [not shown] for two homicide convictions. The answer comes to us via The Associated Press, who’ve taken to communicating directly with their readers. I know: what’s the world coming to?

Members of the five-person execution team in Utah must by law be certified peace officers in the state. Squad members are selected by the executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections in consultation with the county sheriff from the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

By law, the identities of those selected to serve on the firing squad are kept secret. The executioners are armed with matched .30-caliber rifles, four of which are loaded with a live round. The fifth is loaded with a blank. The rifles are randomly assigned to the executioners so none knows which rifle carries the blank, or carries the burden of knowing his bullet killed the condemned.

The executioners fire from behind a gunport bricked into the cinder block wall of the execution chamber, a 20-by-24-foot room inside the prison. The room was completed in 1998 and was previously used for an execution by lethal injection.

Prior to the execution, the condemned will be strapped into a specially designed chair, his head covered with a hood and a white target pinned to his chest over his heart.

The last person to die in Utah by firing squad was John Albert Taylor in 1996.

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