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Missouri Bill Would Add Firing Squad As Death Penalty Option

Posted: January 18, 2014

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In recent months, states have been running out of a drug used for the lethal injection. This bill aims to give Missouri another option. One of the bill's sponsors says a firing squad is "no less humane than lethal injection."

This is the execution room at the Potosi Correctional Center in Potosi, Miss., as it looked on Jan. 17, 1990. Death by lethal injection was the method used at the prison.

This is the execution room at the Potosi Correctional Center in Potosi, Miss., as it looked on Jan. 17, 1990. Death by lethal injection was the method used at the prison.

A bill introduced in the Missouri Statehouse adds a firing squad as an option for carrying out the death penalty in the state.

The bill would give the state another option besides lethal gas and lethal injection, which has run into speed bumps because pharmaceutical companies have halted the sale of one of the drugs used in those executions.

St. Louis Today reports:

"It is unclear whether a firing squad has ever been used in the state. However, one man was shot as a means of execution in 1864, according to the ESPY File, which details executions in the United States from 1608 to 2002.

"Since 1976, more than 1,300 executions have been conducted in the United States. Only three — in Oklahoma and Utah — were by firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Oklahoma allows execution by firing squad if both injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional. Utah outlawed firing-squad executions in 2004, according to the center."

"A firing squad would be quick and something we could do at a moment's notice," one of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Rick Brattin, told the paper. "My opinion is they would suffer less than with lethal injection."

Brattin told Reuters that a firing squad is "no less humane than lethal injection." The bill suggests the firing squad would be composed of five licensed peace officers.

In reaction to the bill, Claire McCaskill, the Missouri senator, tweeted: "Not my state's finest moment."

The death penalty has been in the news this week, after an execution in Ohio used a novel two-drug cocktail, after the state ran out of pentobarbital, a drug used by several states for lethal injections.

As Mark reported, when Dennis McGuire, who was convicted of raping and slashing the throat of a 22-year-old pregnant woman, was injected with midazolam and hydromorphone, he "started struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds which lasted for at least 10 minutes."

McGuire was declared dead 24 minutes after he received the injection.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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