Are Firing Squads the “Most Humane Method” of Execution?

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Earlier this week, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, signed a bill re-establishing firing squads as a ‘secondary method for executions’, in the event that drugs necessary for lethal injections – the primary method of executions in the Beehive State – are unable to be obtained. Bloomberg Business recently published an article by Matt Stroud that argues in favor of firing squads for death penalty executions. The reason? Lethal injections have proven to be problematic . . .

If the firing squad is gruesome, lethal injection isn’t necessarily humane. After major drug companies began refusing to deliver execution drugs, states were forced to negotiate often-secret contracts with compounding pharmacies to get them. Grisly botched executions, in which condemned killers gasped for air and writhed in pain for an hour or longer before dying, called lethal injection further into question. The most recent came in July 2014.

“In lethal injections, you [typically] have prison personnel acting as medical professionals,” says Dr. Jonathan Groner, a professor of pediatric surgery at Ohio State University who speaks and writes about lethal injection issues. “That’s outside their usual scope of practice.”

In Arizona, after receiving lethal injection drugs, Joseph Wood gasped 640 times over a period of an hour and 40 minutes, according to the Arizona Republic, before he finally died in July. In Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett died 43 minutes after his lethal injection execution began last April—but not from the drugs. He died from a heart attack. That’s troubling, considering that the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty’s legality in 1890 as long as it didn’t involve “a lingering death” or “something more than the mere extinguishment of life.”

Some experts say bullets are just better.

“Every law enforcement officer and every prison guard knows how to fire a gun,” Groner says. “Death by firing squad is fast. When a person’s heart stops pumping, that person loses consciousness. We believe that’s when they stop feeling pain. That’s what a firing squad does. You put a few bullets in someone’s heart, it stops pumping. They lose consciousness almost immediately.”

I don’t have any moral qualms about the death penalty in the abstract, but I certainly have some concerns about the way in which it has been implemented in the United States, as well as some serious doubts about the justice system’s ability to make sure that it isn’t implemented against an innocent person (the case of Randall Dale Adams leaps to mind; there are many other cases.)

Based on past history, I’m skeptical of the government’s ability to deliver the mail, provide welfare transfer payments to individuals or corporations in anything resembling an efficient and fair manner, or bring a foreign expeditionary war to a successful conclusion. I see no reason to the assume that the criminal justice system doesn’t also have a high error rate, and that has to be included in the equation when considering advisability of the death penalty.

Nevertheless, objections to the use of a firing squads as a method of execution versus lethal injection or other (supposedly more ‘civilized’ methods) are silly. Death comes to the convict and ends whatever discomfort he may feel soon enough–perhaps too soon in his mind–whatever manner is chosen.

The reason that firing squads have been spurned in favor of lethal injection is because the lethal injections seem to be more…peaceful. It doesn’t offend our modern sensibilities as much. The injection is given, the convict loses consciousness, and everything’s wrapped up neatly with little psychic discomfort for the witnesses.

A firing squad is by its nature a messier affair. Can one witness an execution in this manner without being acutely aware of the violence of the act? Aware, that is, that a passive subject is being destructively attacked, in an act of violence committed by armed agents of the state with the imprimatur of twelve good people selected at large from the citizenry. This bit of state-mandated violence is done in our name as citizens, giving us a degree of complicity. Perhaps that’s why states with a death penalty have eliminated the firing squad; it may remind the citizenry a little too much just how powerful (and capricious) government can be.

Are firing squads “humane”? Maybe, maybe not. But that question’s beside the point.

With all that said, however, I need to ask a question that’s been bothering me a little since reading Mr. Stroud’s article. Am I the only one who finds it curious that Bloomberg Business, owned by plutocrat and proponent of civilian disarmament Michael Bloomberg, appears to have enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon for firing squads? I know ol’ Mike is something of a proponent of the power of the state over the individual, but this one seems a bit weird, even for him.

comments

  1. avatar Farmer Tyler says:

    If it is fast and relatively painless isn’t it humane regardless?

    Whoever cleans up after a firing squad will advocate for injections probably..

    1. avatar doesky2 says:

      I prefer the method that gets the leftists panties the most twisted.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        Drawing and quartering? Flaying? Crucifixion?

        1. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

          Firing squad and leave the body to the crows in view of other death row inmates.

  2. avatar Kyle says:

    IMO, the most humane way to execute someone is via the guillotine. It is quick, painless, and absolutely guaranteed to kill the person. However, due to the history of it and the manner of just “how” it kills people (chopping heads off), the public might be queasy about its use.

    1. avatar Vitor says:

      Actually there is some strong evidence that the beheaded person still experience the pain and some seconds conscious.

      I think a powerfull hollow point to the back of the head would be the fastest way.

      1. avatar Uncle Fester says:

        The Chinese do it that way.

        1. avatar Elysium says:

          And they charge the family of the deceased that cost of that round.

        2. avatar int19h says:

          Chinese have switched to lethal injection several years ago.

          They used to do it with a 7.62×39 round to the back of the head from an AK, point blank. Not hollow point, but it doesn’t really matter at that range. It basically blows the back of the skull off entirely, and splatters the brain all over, with hydrostatic shock alone (I actually wonder if shards of skull don’t fly off fast enough to make it dangerous for the executioner). It’s certainly damn fast and effective, but also extremely messy.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        There isn’t really “strong” evidence, other than some anecdotes. There is an opposing theory that the complete and immediate severing of the spinal cord leads to neurogenic shock which causes the lights to go out right away.

      3. avatar Ken says:

        It doesn’t need to be either powerful or a hollow point. A .22 will do the job without all the mess of a more powerful round. The effect is instantaneous if proper placement is obtained.

        1. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

          Why a bullet? Why not a captive bolt gun like they use for cows? Just strap them into a chair with that right behind the brain stem set to go off at a randomized time so there is nothing to anticipate and it’s no country for old death row inmates.

    2. We live in a time where technology could make the firing squad much more efficient. Humans wouldn’t even have to hold the rifles. No chance of someone missing the mark. Volunteers merely push a button making it impossible to tell who fired the live round. Hell, you could have 50 people push the buttons to really make It impossible to tell who ended it all.

      1. avatar Model66 says:

        And the state could sell lottery/raffle tickets for volunteers to be selected as part of of the 1:50 chance of getting the ‘hot’ button.
        Death Squad Scratch and Win!!!! $20 per play!!!

        1. I think 12 of the tickets should be set aside for the convicting jury. basically “how sure are you?”. To be honest I think life in prison is much more torturous than being put to death.

  3. avatar Nate says:

    I don’t have any moral qualms in the abstract either, and I think death should be sought and imposed in only the most explicit cases where there is overwhelming evidence. After that, I don’t really care how it’s done, hanging, firing squad, boiled in oil, fired into the sun, whatever it’s academic after the sentence has been handed down.

    We shouldn’t let the fact that the government is an incompetent steward of power stand in the way of making people who should be dead and need to be dead, dead. We minimize the collateral damage and roll on.

  4. avatar tdiinva says:

    The answer is yes. Simultaneous shots to the head and heart will result in almost immediate loss of consciousness if not death.

    1. avatar BlueBronco says:

      Except that Utah has adopted a procedure that will result in only one of the rifles having a real round. The others will be blanks and they are fired through holes. The squads are reportedly to be made up of anonymous LEO.

      1. avatar BlueBronco says:

        In 2010, 4 rounds and 1 blank was used on Ronnie Lee Gardner. The squad was made up of volunteers from LEO.

      2. avatar Tripwire says:

        Five rifles, one blank is the way it’s done.

        1. avatar BlueBronco says:

          I already corrected that, pay attention, lol.

        2. avatar Chris says:

          which is ridiculous. If you have volunteered, you have no moral qualms about doing the deed, so why do you need the blank? Nevermind that a skilled shooter knows when he’s firing blanks…

          It would be better if the 12 convicting jurors made up the firing squad. Better be 100% sure then, if you’re the guy pulling the trigger…

  5. avatar mk10108 says:

    I have no problem with a painful death for a criminal, what better way to recall their victims as they bleed out.
    What’s ironic is government’s relentless march to deconstruct the Constitution for the sole purpose of infringing on liberty and yet cannot compel a corporation to produce a drugs for an execution.

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:

      So you’d be willing to violate the constitution (by compelling a business to sell you a product against its will) on the grounds that the government violates the constitution in other areas?

      1. avatar Mk10108 says:

        Obamacare

      2. avatar Stoney Burt says:

        Wait…What? How about businesses sued out of business because they feel putting two men or two women on top of a wedding cake violates their moral/religious ethics. The government will violate the constitution when ever and where ever it suits their present agenda.

        1. avatar SteveInCO says:

          Well yeah, that’s sort of my point.

          They do this shit all the time, but the guy I was replying to seemed to want them to do it even more.

  6. avatar SteveInCO says:

    A pure nitrogen atmosphere will kill painlessly. The subject simply breathes normally and then blacks out and eventually dies. If he were on oxygen for a few minutes then they switched the feed to pure nitrogen, he’d never even know when it happened.

    (The “I need to breathe” reflex comes from CO2 buildup, not from your body detecting low oxygen levels; the one can serve as a proxy for the other so long as one is breathing normal air.)

    1. avatar Mk10108 says:

      Winner. Low cost and effective. I like it.

    2. avatar Nate says:

      I’ve wondered about this myself. It’s amazing that no one ever brings it up. Still, a bullet in the brain pan is just as effective.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        Bullets are messy (there’s always going to be blood if you poke holes). With nitrogen asphyxiation, there’s no mess at all.

    3. avatar Phil says:

      And when he blacks out, we use the Guillotine to be sure it’s over…
      Both methods combined will assure a painless but efficient way…. and also quite cost effective too 🙂

  7. avatar ThomasR says:

    When a death penalty could be enforced by burning at the stake, being drawn and quartered and being impaled, hanging was considered revolutionary in it being, in comparison, a quick and painless death.

    1. avatar ThomasR says:

      As for the the death penalty it self? I’ve thought that killing another person without giving that person a chance to defend their life as a basic violation of the dignity of life, even of a mass murderer. We, by denying this person an ability to defend their life, are doing to him what he did to his victim. I see it as two wrongs don’t make a right.

      I would give a confirmed murderer two choices; life in prison without parole, or if people want this person dead, the murderer has the choice of weapons, and then it would be a fight to death. The last man standing is free to go, even if it’s the murderer.

      If no one wants to take the chance that they might lose their life in trying to take the life of the murderer, then he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

      1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

        Ah, yes: the Game of Thrones approach to the death penalty. That would be a violation of the rights of the person chosen/forced to fight the condemned person.

        The constitution explicitly authorizes capital punishment. The argument that the death penalty itself is cruel and unusual is a non-starter, based on a plain reading of the constitution.

        1. avatar Nate says:

          Hear, hear! I thought I was the only one who could read!

        2. avatar ThomasR says:

          I haven’t watched more than one or two shows of Game Of Thrones. I was thinking of ancient Rome where a condemned man would be able to fight in the arena with a sword in hand.

          Just because many in our culture accepts the death penalty as it’s administered as constitutional, doesn’t make it right. But I also believe a felon, once they serve their prison term, should get back all of their rights, including the right to KABA and to vote.

          There are a number of things that I see in my culture that people accept as the norm that I see as a basic violation of the dignity of human life. The murder of the unborn as another example.

          To use lethal force in the moment as a defense against a human predator is completely justified. If the predator surrenders after having killed a family member and you shoot them down as they have their hands in the air, you would be charged with murder. But after having gone through a trial, and the person is charged with murder, then they can be killed.

          So If you killed them after you saw them killing a family member, but they have surrendered and are no longer a threat to you, you have committed murder. But if twelve citizens decide after the fact, they can vote to kill him and it’s NOT murder.

          I don’t agree, if what one person does is wrong, it still is wrong, even if twelve decide it’s right.

          I

      2. avatar Ken says:

        So, I guess two condemned murderers in gladiatorial combat with the loser going into the ground and the winner going back into the cell would work for you. If we set it up on pay per view we might even get some of our costs back for housing and prosecuting them. After a few fights a few might even become cult heroes or crowd favorites just like in the gladiators in Rome.

        Okay, I see where you’re coming from. I was against capital punishment till I heard your idea but this could work for me. My big argument has always been that killing someone had to have an effect on the person doing the act. It is not what we did to the criminal but what we did to the executioner that I had a problem with. Your answer deals quite well with my objection as these people are already willingly murderers.

        1. avatar ThomasR says:

          No. I’m not talking about two murderers fighting it out. I’m talking about law abiding citizens that have been harmed by the predator, or their champions, that want this person dead. If the predator wasn’t killed at the moment of the attack, the predator has surrendered and is no longer a direct threat to other citizens.

          There should be an understanding that if the predator wasn’t killed at the moment of the attack, which is only just, to kill the predator in cold blood after the fact is to me an abomination. I would be a murderer if I did this, to me, it’s no different if twelve vote to do so.

          So it comes down to if I want some one dead after the fact because they killed a family members but they surrendered and were in jail and no longer a threat, the only honorable way for me to seek his death would give the murderer a choice; stay in jail for the rest of his life, or fight me to the death and if he survived he would go free.

        2. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          So, I guess two condemned murderers in gladiatorial combat with the loser going into the ground and the winner going back into the cell would work for you. If we set it up on pay per view we might even get some of our costs back for housing and prosecuting them. After a few fights a few might even become cult heroes or crowd favorites just like in the gladiators in Rome.
          Let the Gladiatorial games begin! Bread and circuses for everyone. Gloria Imperium Romanum!

      3. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

        So a convicted criminal, of whom there is no doubt committed a heinous crime, is allowed a greater dignity and more rights than he allowed his victims? I doubt any mass murderer has notified his victims ahead of time, allowed them to choose a weapon and only then fought them to the death.

        Such a person has forfeited their dignity and rights as a human being and deserves no such honorable fight.

        That’s how I see it, anyway.

        If you think it’s wrong to spend your tax dollars to execute a prisoner (a la Penn and Teller), I think that it’s equally wrong to spend my tax dollars to continue feeding such a person, or providing them medical care.

        So how about this, we only sentence the worst of the worst to spend the rest of their natural life in prison, but it comes with no meals or medical care. We should probably sound proof that cell.

  8. avatar JohnF says:

    Since we seem to be so completely inept at capital punishment, my first suggestion is to get rid of it once and for all. I don’t care about the morality of it, but the way we do it it is such a failed public policy I think we as a society have proven beyond any doubt that we can’t handle it.

    If we are going to keep doing it anyway, let me suggest a combined method. The condemned is hanged, from a scaffold. But instead of rope, we use a thick, bare electrical wire. When the condemned drops, the lower legs splash into a vat of water, completing a 2,000 volt circuit between the wire and the water. At that point, a light goes on, to signal a firing squad positioned below the scaffold, to open fire. I think that should do it.

    Advantages: No one method gets the blame for “cruel and unusual,” in fact I doubt even forensics could figure out what killed the deceased and we stop screwing up executions. It also has great reality TV potential.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      What you describe reminds me of an urban legend about a botched suicide. From Snopes:

      Intent on suicide, Frenchman Jacques Lefevre drove a stake into the ground on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea, then tied one end of a rope around the stake and the other around his neck. Being nothing if thorough, Lefevre then drank a bottle of poison, set his clothes on fire, lowered himself over the cliff, and tried to shoot himself in the head. Unfortunately he missed, the bullet cut the rope in two, dropping the hapless gentleman into the sea, where the salt water put out his flaming clothes and caused him to spew up the poison. A passing fisherman picked Lefevre up and delivered him to a nearby hospital, where at last the weary Frenchman got his wish – and died from the effects of exposure.

      1. avatar JohnF says:

        Ha! I am a big Darwin Award fan, but I hadn’t seen that one. I would say, “See, the combined method works, even if not as planned!”

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    Lethal injection is the way to put down a dog or cat, not a person.

    Hanging, beheading and similar methods are intended to humiliate and are sadistic.

    The Russian method of a single bullet to the back of the head, while quick and probably painless, is too personal and the executioner is likely to be a psychopath who enjoys his work a bit too much.

    Old Sparky is painful and takes a long time.

    The firing squad is more humane and ethical. And at least in the West, it is more culturally acceptable. As an alternative means of execution, I guess that it’s the one that most prisoners would choose. Live by the gun, die by the gun.

    1. avatar int19h says:

      Nitrogen asphyxiation?

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Little mikey is probably totally on board with this. I remember the public reaction to the Gary Gilmore execution.
    It seems totally in line with little mikey’s personality.

  11. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    If we are talking about .243 Winchester and up in rifle calibers with quality expanding bullets, a single shot to the head produces instant death with no sensation whatsoever. The reason that there is no sensation is because the destruction of the bullet makes its way to the processing centers of the brain before the nerve signals (indicating damage/pain) arrive. Quite literally, one instant the person is aware of the world and the next instant they are not.

    As far as I understand, a single shot to the upper chest area with something like a .243 Winchester and an expanding bullet, at close range, will also “turn out the lights” instantly because of hydrostatic shock. An expanding bullet, upon impact, literally creates a shock wave in the victim which travels to the brain and causes immediate loss of consciousness. And then the brain dies from oxygen deprivation over the next few minutes … all the while unconscious.

    So, I consider both of those to be humane if the objective is to kill a person without feeling any pain.

    1. avatar Josh says:

      I read up on what Utah uses for their firing squad a few days ago out of curiosity. They apparently use Winchester 1894 lever guns chambered in .30-30 loaded with Winchester silver tips. All of the rifles are aimed at a target pinned over the heart from about 7 yards away. They also reportedly give one man a rifle loaded with blanks, which doesn’t make much sense to me, because pretty much anyone can tell the difference in recoil and muzzle blast between a live round and a blank.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        >> pretty much anyone can tell the difference in recoil and muzzle blast between a live round and a blank.

        Only if they actually want to tell the difference.

  12. avatar LarryinTX says:

    I like suicide vests. Open field, 10 sticks of dynamite, Drive away a safe distance, detonate and keep on driving. No muss, no fuss, no cleanup. Then forget the turd.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      North Korea’s new Kim the Dictator has an interesting way to execute.

      The condemned general was driven out to an army mortar range where a soldier fires one round. The condemned general was ordered to stand in the new crater.

      A second round was fired without changing the settings of the mortar.

      *Boom*

  13. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    I have no problem with the accused feeling some or any amount of discomfort while being executed. The pain caused by the offender to the family of a victim cant be measured.
    I do have a little difficulty with the possibility of an other wise innocent person being put to death.
    But as the odds of this happening on a large or persuasive basis is minimal. I can and do over look this possibility to have happened. A mistake here and their can and Im sure has happened. The methods used by the state is of no consequence to me.
    If the offender feels pain, so be it.

  14. avatar Uncle Fester says:

    By eliminating the gruesome Hanging, Electric Chair And Gas Chamber, the state made it easier for a jury to vote for it.

    In term of a relatively painless death that jail staff cannot botch, the French Guillotine may be the most effective but gruesome.

    As a lawyer, I am against the DP because I know that our justice system is not perfect. It is a great system, but not perfect.

  15. avatar Hannibal says:

    Decapitation is better. But inert gas inhalation may be the best on account of it being both painless and lacking the sort of “ick” factor that is involved by more mechanical methods.

  16. avatar davidx says:

    If memory serves, it’s not actually a firing squad that Utah has used in the past; it’s been a single volunteer marksman who fires at the prisoner, who is securely strapped to a chair with a target pinned to his chest.

    1. avatar History Warning says:

      I thought the last execution in Utah used the 5 man rule? 5 officers, 4 loaded rifles, 1 blank.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Correct. Why would someone write “if memory serves” instead of just using the 6 letters and a click it takes to get to google?

        “In Utah, firing squads consist of five volunteer law enforcement officers[10][11] from the county in which the conviction of the offender took place. The five executioners were equipped with .30-30-caliber rifles and off-the-shelf Winchester 150-grain (9.7 g) SilverTip ammunition. The condemned was restrained and hooded, and the shots were fired at a distance of 20 feet (6 m), aiming at the chest.”

  17. avatar Survivordude says:

    Considering what some of these people on death row do to their victims, their suffering doesn’t bother me at all. Gas chamber, firing squad, electric chair, lethal injection, doesn’t matter. Kill ’em, bury ’em, forget about ’em.

  18. avatar History Warning says:

    I would caution those who adopt this method wholeheartedly. I hope we would learn from history between Edison and Westinghouse. Edison commissioned the electric chair on AC current to try and destroy his competition. In effect attaching a further dangerous stigma to AC current technology. This made AC seem to the public at large to be repugnant and dangerous. If not for some very fortunate events Westinghouse would have been ruined by the turn in the public opinion tide against AC current that “kills people” and toward Edison’s “Safe” DC current system. Remember in the beginning this country was a DC country…….. Beware what you wish for.

  19. avatar Tom W. says:

    Oh call me old fashioned 5 trained shooters 5 1903A3 bolt action 30-06’s, one blank. Loaded for the marksmen, give the condemned a cigarette and last words.
    Ready, Aim, well,…you all know the rest.
    PS, I’m all for using modern expanding hunting ammo, Ya know quick like.

  20. avatar Bradn says:

    I think firing squads are more honest. It’s easy to say someone deserves to die but it’s a whole other thing to see the blood, to see the guns, to see the damage to the body. If we’re going to live in a society where we carry out judicial killings, we need to be honest with ourselves that this is not some neat and clean thing. Lethal injection is too “clean” to communicate this idea to people in my opinion.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I oppose the death penalty in part for this very reason. The killing of a human should not be a bureaucratic process ending in death. A firing squad would be better for the rest of society, if not the convicted.

      1. avatar Jim says:

        What should it be then?

        If we as citizens authorize our government to declare war and allow military personnel to kill other human beings, then the bureaucratic process of trial by jury of peers is no different.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          Using that logic you could allow the government to do anything.

  21. avatar Jim R says:

    First, I believe that if the death penalty is used at all, it should be reserved for those in which case there is no doubt whatsoever of their guilt. I would rather let a thousand murderers rot in prison for life than execute 1 innocent man. (And yes–innocent men HAVE been put to death, which is why the UK abolished the death penalty years ago)

    Second, I don’t understand why they don’t just have the condemned breathe something like pure nitrogen, or carbon monoxide. Relatively quick, relatively painless, and if that last-minute pardon should happen to come through, 100% reversible up to the point the prisoner loses consciousness.

  22. avatar JWM says:

    I guess it depends on how much we trust our .gov to get it right. I find it hard to believe that the average commentor on this site has enough trust in .gov to trust them with getting guilt or innocence right.

    Life in prison seems best to me until we have a more trustworthy and honest .gov overseeing things.

    1. avatar Jim R says:

      I don’t believe there is such a thing as a trustworthy government. If there’s anything we should have learned by now, it’s that governments are not to be trusted. Not this one or any other.

    2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      The government doesn’t need the death penalty to enact malice on it’s citizens.

  23. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    I think the entire premise is false. The constitution protects against cruel and unusual. All forms of execution are, by definition, inhumane. All that matters is that the chosen form isn’t cruel and unusual. Firing squad, hanging, electric chair, lethal injection: these are all squarely outside of cruel and unusual.

    For anyone who needs a refresher on what constitutes cruel and unusual, simply peruse the execution videos posted by ISIS/AQ.

    1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      You could make a good argument that life in prison without parole is cruel, especially for criminals that can’t be left in the general population. Although I’d make an allowance for Maj. Nadal Hassan. I think making him wait a few decades for his 72 virgins to sit in a cell and poop his diaper is totally appropriate.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Somehow I suspect that while you could make that argument, most people about to be executed would find it lacking.

    2. avatar int19h says:

      Electric chair isn’t cruel? Have you seen the track record?

      1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

        I have no particular affinity for the electric chair. I don’t revel in the method of execution, nor do I lose sleep over so-called “botched” executions of the condemned. As long as the method is designed and intended to cause death, and not inordinate or prolonged agony prior to death, it’s fine by me.

        1. avatar int19h says:

          “So-called botched”, really? What would you call it then when the chair literally fries the condemned, taking over a minute to do so?

          Oh, and electric chair wasn’t designed to be fast. It was designed to smear Edison’s competition by “proving” that AC current is more deadly than DC. By practically any measure, as far as methods of execution go, it is one of the worst – it is extremely unreliable, very gruesome if it goes wrong (and to some extent even if it goes right), and maintenance heavy. But the gruesomeness was very much by design!

          It’s not even that the idea of killing people with electrical current is necessarily flawed, it’s just that electric chair is one of the worst ways you can do that. A very reliable and pretty much painless way would be to stick two electrodes under the skin on either side of the heart… with skin resistance out of the picture, it only takes as much as two 9V batteries to induce a current that will trigger ventricular fibrillation, with unconsciousness in seconds and death in a few minutes from brain oxygen starvation. Quite a few people actually kill themselves accidentally that way (or similar – it’s not necessary to pierce the skin near the heart, it’s just that this makes it more reliable) every year.

          OTOH, with electric chair, because it applies current outside of the skin, skin resistance enters into play. This is what necessitates high voltage and current, and what produces most of the gruesome and pain-inducing effects (in particular, because of high resistance, skin burns).

  24. avatar Kevin says:

    I have no problem with doing away with the death penalty altogether. Life in prison is cheaper, likely more miserable for the guilty, serves all of the legit purposes that our government should be concerned with, and if new evidence exonerates the accused, you can always set them free.

    1. avatar Tom W. says:

      Free healthcare, free dental, food, 3 hots and a cot, for the rest of his/her life, hmmmm, doesn’t seem cheaper than 4 or 5 Bullets.

      What irks me is all death sentences are automatically appealed. That’s the law. However it can still take a couple decades or more for the sentence to be carried out by whatever method. Exhausting all opportunities to prove you have the right guilty person should take 90 days. Than off you go. Personally public hangings should be brought back. Let the gangbanger that slaughtered an innocent child in Chicago be hung in the same neighborhood. Kinda ups that deterrence angle we’ve lost as a kinder gentler nation.

      1. avatar Kevin says:

        It’s cheaper. Google it.

        If you want to summarily hang people in the streets, there are plenty of cultures that will accommodate you, happily. Some of them we aren’t event at war with right now.

        By the way, the same constitution that has 2a in it also has “jury trial” in it, so . . .

        1. avatar Jim says:

          It’s only cheaper because of the cost of the appeals process.

        2. avatar Kevin says:

          Since when do we consider cost when determining what is right? Yes it would be cheaper to suspend due process and execute everyone who breaks the law. Ask ISIS. They’re saving a fortune on lawyers.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        ” doesn’t seem…”

        “Seem.” “Feel.” These are words that mean “I didn’t bother to check.”

  25. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    The pure nitrogen thing is a good idea. Execution should be rare and reserved for the worst and 100% no doubt guilty. Like the Tsarnaev pos in Boston-martyr his evil coward a##…

  26. avatar Gregory says:

    I am going to approach this issue with pure logic. Place a couple pounds of C-4 around the neck of the subject that needs to be executed. Put said person in the middle of a vacant field and detonate the C-4. The person will be instantaneously vaporized. What is left will be fertilizer. Problem solved!

  27. avatar An English Person says:

    Dear Johannes Paulsen,
    You say you “don’t have any moral qualms about the death penalty {in the abstract}”, however, in England we executed children for stealing in times past.
    What is your definition of ‘perspective’?

    1. avatar Former Water Walker says:

      I am NOT Johannes but bringing up what England did in the 19th century(and before)is absurd-as absurd as giving IRA terrorists 14years in prison for blowing people up or giving muslim lowlifes prison for beheading Lee Rigby in public. Not to mention giving your country away to the muslim crowd…

      1. avatar An English Person says:

        Non est…

  28. avatar BlueBronco says:

    The firing squads to be used by Utah aren’t like the one in the picture. The will be shooting through little hoes while the person is shackled in a chair. They will be pulling anonymously from law enforcement officers. The use of law enforcement officers is a bit creepy regarding Utah’s procedure.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      The will be shooting through little hoes

      They shoot through little hoes? Man, those Mormons are strict.

      1. avatar BlueBronco says:

        In reality, its actually 2 slots unless they redesign it. Two rifles are fired through one and 3 through the other.

        http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/utah-lawmakers-approve-execution-by-firing-squad-faster-and-more-humane-than-botched-lethal-injections_03272015

  29. avatar NDS says:

    Bloomberg approves of the firing squad because it fits the “guns kill” narrative.

    2% CO concentration causes unconsciousness in about two seconds and death in three minutes. IF you’re going to continue with the death penalty, may as well be a cheap, effective method that doesn’t give fuel to any anti-gun hysterics.

  30. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    So let’s recap: we should strongly reconsider the advisability of the death penalty, because of the fact that the government (comprised of human beings) is fallible and might screw it up. But we shouldn’t, EVER, reconsider the advisability of the Second Amendment, despite the fact that gun owners (also human beings) are fallible and do indeed screw up gun ownership from time to time. (So much so, that I’ve heard tell that there’s actually a blog which gives out “Idiot Gun Owner of the Day” awards!)

    I guess one inconvenient truth about guns, is that some gun owners might have a tinge of hypocrisy

    1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      I support both the Second Amendment and the death penalty. Although I think you’re confused about the Second Amendment. It was put in place to protect the population FROM the fallible government comprised of human beings. Not the other way around. All of the Bill of Rights were put in place to limit what government can do, not citizens.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Nope. No hypocracy here at all. If an armed citizen commits a crime and harms someone with a firearm, we punish that citizen and remove their right to have a firearm. We attempt to remove their ability to kill another citizen. I think you see many here suggesting we do the same for our government.

    3. avatar Grindstone says:

      Gun owners don’t tend to capture people, throw them in a cage for 10 years, lie about them, then kill them.

      But the government does.

  31. avatar Timmy! says:

    Exsanguination, and if the blood is not tainted, donate it to the blood banks to save some lives. Also, use any and all good organs for transplants.

    On the other hand, Heinlein had an idea called “Coventry.” Wall off an area, plop all lifers in, and shoot any who try to come back over the wall back into “polite society.” Think “Escape From New York.” Hell, I can do without Hawaii. Wall that place off from the world and fill with convicts. Sure, sounds a lot like Australia’s history but… hmm, they have lots of vacant space still.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Wall off an area, plop all lifers in

      That sounds a lot like Camden, NJ.

    2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      I believe death by firing squad is exsanguination.

    3. avatar Geoff PR says:

      The shark-filled waters around Hawaii form a defacto wall of sorts…

      Aloha *this*…

    4. avatar int19h says:

      >> On the other hand, Heinlein had an idea called “Coventry.” Wall off an area, plop all lifers in, and shoot any who try to come back over the wall back into “polite society.”

      You forgot to mention the part where the said polite society basically has an absolute taboo on violence, to the point where striking someone for swearing at him (the crime of the main protagonist) results in this sentence.

      Also, they don’t just plop them all in, they give them a choice: either undergo a psychiatric correction to remove the “violent impulse”, or be banished to Coventry. Even then, every resident of Coventry has the right to change their mind at any time, for which purpose there’s a special booth with an alarm at the border crossing (though getting to it is not necessarily easy, as other residents of the reservation might not believe in the right to leave, and the laws of the outside world are not enforced there in any shape or form).

    5. avatar int19h says:

      >> Exsanguination, and if the blood is not tainted, donate it to the blood banks to save some lives. Also, use any and all good organs for transplants.

      Niven had a series of stories describing what happens to society with such an arrangement (“The Jigsaw Man” and “The Gift from Earth” are two prominent ones exploring this topic in depth). Basically, once you start using executed convicts for organ transplants, there’s a vested interest on behalf of law-abiding citizens to expand the application of death penalty so as to ensure that the organ banks are kept filled – because with the right tech level you can extend your life quite a bit and dodge many otherwise lethal diseases with transplants.

  32. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    If I were to be executed by firing squad and was granted a last wish I would wish for my executioners to be equipped with mini-guns. At least I could make them blow a few thousand rounds on me. Oh, and it’d definitely be quick.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      I’d wish for my executioners to use Remington 700 rifles equipped with XMP triggers.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        I thought those went bang when they weren’t supposed to, not the other way around.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          Hope they run out of ammo on the way over?

      2. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        R51s would be even better.

  33. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    i would suggest that we hold our government to the same standard to which they hold us. The use of deadly force is allowed only when the threat is eminent. In that vein, I would suggest that all death penalty sentences be temporarily suspended and only carried out when the convicted once again becomes a threat. Attacking guards, other inmates, or arranging for violence outside prison would cause the suspension to be lifted and the condemned man would be immediately executed. Otherwise, the condemned serves a life sentence without parole. We would no longer be complicit in what amounts to state approved murder.

    1. avatar JohnF says:

      I appreciate the argument, but once the accused has attacked guards or other inmates, or arranged for violence outside prison, damage has been done that could have been prevented and we are essentially back to square one. The threat is over, it is no longer imminent. The state allows us to shoot at someone shooting at us until the imminent threat is over. If the BG starts shooting again, we can shoot again until the new immediate threat has stopped, but we still cannot follow up with a “coup de grâce.”

  34. avatar David says:

    It will never be allowed but . . .

    How about a lethal dose of opiates? It has killed cemeteries full of people. The subject just goes to sleep and never wakes up. Currently being used by doctors darn near everywhere a.k.a. “snowing”. If the subject is/was a junk double the dose or . . .

    That’s where the firing squad comes in. Morphine much more plentiful than any DP drug or cocktail.

    1. avatar rosignol says:

      I’ve heard that it’s possible to get so wasted on heroin that the addict forgets to breathe.

      Not ‘cruel and unusual’, not gruesome, and they end up dead.

      That works for me. It’s not like there’s a shortage of heroin suppliers.

      1. avatar Jay-El says:

        Virtually all fatal ODs are the result of hypoxia brought on by the suppression of respiratory drive that opiates in large quantities cause. The stories of junkies discovered dead with the needle still in their arm after getting a hot load are true.

  35. avatar drew in michigan says:

    Why can’t the condemned be implanted upon his/her intake onto death row with a small squib [it`s much like a blasting cap] with a wireless receiver into their brain or placed near the heart?
    This could be with or without their knowledge, and when it`s time, just after lights out push the button “bang” game over.

    1. avatar Jay-El says:

      It would definitely cut down on the line for the commissary microwave.

  36. avatar Scott says:

    See the execution of Sonmi in the movie Cloud Atlas. It’s on YouTube. Quick, simple, painless.

  37. avatar Jay-El says:

    I have to say I agree with Johannes on this.

    Most of us chide the gun-phobes for their emotional position and actions in the face of data to the contrary. In that light, considering the costs of appeal and death-row incarceration and the absence of data showing a deterrent effect, we ought to be opposed to the death penalty. That’s on top of the concerns about government incompetence.

    In an remarkable parallel to one of our oft-cited arguments against gun laws, we should a least acknowledge the likelihood that criminals bent on murder or sodomizing children do not consider the consequences of their actions any more than gangbangers decide not to walk around strapped because of background checks.

    The only social benefit to capital punishment that I’m aware of is its ability to incentivize defendants to plead guilty to 2nd degree murder to avoid being executed.

  38. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    I guess it’s time to break out my rabid dog philosophy on crime and punishment.

    Ever see Old Yeller? The dog had to be put down because he was diseased, was dangerous and could never be around humans again. It was the humane thing to do. There are people, not many but a few that are like a rabid dog. It’s not their fault they’re messed up in the head, but what they’ve got can’t be cured and they can never be allowed to be near other humans again. Animals we put out of their misery, humans we lock in a cage and let them suffer for the rest of their natural life. Seems to me we treat the animals better than the humans.

  39. avatar Bob108 says:

    So, why do we have to be humane when punishing someone who would not give us the same courtesy?

    1. avatar JohnF says:

      Well, supposedly to show we are better than they are. But I have never totally bought into that idea. I think by the time we get to that point, they have already been shown to be way worse than the rest of us, no contest, nothing left to prove. Also, I think it is arrogant to want to be better than anyone. In the end game, I just want the good guys (us) to be victorious.

  40. avatar AllAmerican says:

    People are always crying about how the death penalty isn’t a deterrent. And they’re right, but only, only because its done hidden away in some room somewhere and you rarely ever hear about it. The death penalty loses all effect like this, and was never meant to be done this way. Since it’s conception and use in humanity, it was always done publicly, to send a message. When done the correct way, in public, as a spectacle, whatever the method, it will succeed as a deterrent. Once the condemned has been killed, the body is to be placed on display in some manner, to drive the point home, for a period no less than one week.

    1. avatar int19h says:

      >> When done the correct way, in public, as a spectacle, whatever the method, it will succeed as a deterrent.

      Can you cite any studies to that effect?

      Because everything we know suggest otherwise. British resorted to very cruel death penalty regime (e.g. death for a theft of more than, IIRC, 12 pennies, no age restrictions – so they hanged quite a lot of street kids for that) to combat the wave of crime caused by rising poverty. It didn’t help in the slightest, and contemporaries have noted that quite often you’d actually have pickpockets working the very crowd that gathered to watch a hanging of a thief.

  41. avatar Buffalo_Bob says:

    Bring back the rope! Drugs and bullets cost money! Or Maybe the states could acquire predatory animals such as lions, grizzly bears, or a pack of wolfs to feed living death row inmates to! Why should we afford a humane death to evil people who caused undo suffering to others and their families.

  42. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Roman Crucifixion along the Interstate highway.

  43. avatar thx855 says:

    I always thought the convicting jury, prosecution and judge of the wrongfully convicted should be hung in front of the court house, until bloated and stinking as a warning to future participants to get it right, or else. Mostly nothing else terrifies me than the concept of wrongful imprisonment or execution at the hands of the fearful and fomenting mob. Rather a 100 guilty men roam free than 1 free man be wrongfully convicted. 1000 guilty men, millions, I wouldn’t care. More than anything this is the measure of a just society, and it is also one where the public need to, and should want to, defend themselves, their loved ones and their property for affording that benefit of the doubt. Sadly we live in a world that has neither of these traits.

  44. avatar BDub says:

    “Are Firing Squads the “Most Humane Method” of Execution?”

    For which party, the condemn, the executioners, or the public?

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