COLUMBIA – top top June 18, 2010, judge double-killer Ronnie Lee Gardner to be strapped right into a chair in a one-of-a-kind room ~ above the grounds the a Utah state prison with his head organized by a halo brace if a prison employee pinned a white, one target end his heart.

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Minutes later, a firing squad of law-enforcement volunteer let loose a volley the .30-caliber Winchester rifle shots from 25 feet away, death Gardner quickly.

He was the last human being in the nation to be executed by a firing squad. No other state has actually employed a firing formation in in ~ least 4 decades.

But part lawmakers in southern Carolina and elsewhere want to usage firing squads again. They"re determined to bypass the legal and also practical logjams the have cut off the it is provided of lethal-injection drugs, and also controversy over botched executions.


“At this point, the firing-squad bills seem come be an ext of one expression of frustration by death-penalty supporters at the i can not qualify to lug out executions,” claimed Robert Dunham, executive director of the fatality Penalty info Center, which collects data ~ above executions but takes no position on funding punishment.

He said firing squads constitute a “false issue” in this state “because over there is nobody imminently encountering execution.”


Yet Rep. Joshua Putnam, an Anderson ar Republican, disagrees through that notion.

Putnam critical week filed a invoice to enable the usage of firing squads in south Carolina executions, which are at this time to be carried out utilizing lethal-injection uneven an inmate chooses the electrical chair.

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A invoice pending in the Senate would enable the state to usage the electric chair if lethal injection is not available, nevertheless of the inmates" choice. Another pending bill would certainly make mystery the source of the drugs offered in lethal injection, though a judge could open that identity to legal exploration upon a recognize of great cause.

South Carolina has not executed anyone because 2011 — because of recurring appeals. Officials to speak the state’s supply of lethal-injection drugs have actually expired and they cannot acquire any more because medicine companies have refused to offer them if they room to be offered in executions.

"A firing formation sounds barbaric — it sounds inhumane, I"m guessing," Putnam told The Greenville News critical week, "but if girlfriend look at the data, the paints a whole various picture."

Dunham said firing squads have fewer botched executions than other means, however they likewise have been used less in recent decades.

Only three claims use them together an different to lethal injection, according to his organization: Utah, Oklahoma and also Mississippi. The vast majority of those enforcement in Utah since the 1850s have died from firing squads.

Their initial use in Utah has been traced come a past Mormon id in blood atonement, the spilling the blood to atone for particular heinous crimes. The Church of Jesus Christ the Latter-Day Saints no longer accepts together beliefs.

Utah inmates can choose a shoot squad as their way of execution, though it was quit in 2004, then brought back as an alternative in 2015.

A state hands-on unearthed by MuckRock.com and confirmed by the state’s prisons agency lays the end the details of how firing squads work there.

A month before the execution, the prison device assembles a planning team and also selects 5 firing-squad volunteers plus 2 alternates. Each is a law-enforcement officer, and each have to pass a proficiency check at the rifle range, firing at a target the the same size as the one used in executions native a minimum the 21 feet. To qualify, the officer must hit the target at least once.

The hand-operated calls for the use of Winchester .30-caliber rifles.

At the moment of execution, the condemned inmate is brought about a sturdy stole chair in a unique execution chamber. The chair sits on one elevated platform. Large sandbags are piled high on each side the the chair come catch any type of ricocheting bullets. Every component of the platform, including the sandbags, is colored a charcoal gray.


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The inmate is strapped come the chair, a black color hood put over his face. A aur brace holds his head in place. He is asked for any final words and is limited to two minutes. If that goes over the time or provides foul language, according to the manual, the execution proceeds.

Once the warden receives native that any kind of final appeals have actually been exhausted and there room no stays, the directs a supervisor to proceed and also a countdown begins.

The firing formation is assembled behind a wall with rifle ports about 25 feet away from the chair. Each formation member is provided a rifle v two rounds. One is offered non-lethal wax bullets, yet none that the officers, whose identities are kept secret, to know who has actually the dummy rounds.

A target is pinned end the inmate’s heart.

At the finish of the countdown, the policemans fire.

Officials look for signs of consciousness. If there are some when the medical examiner checks for a pulse, a second firing volley can be ordered. If the inmate is unconscious but still has a pulse, officials wait because that 10 minutes and check again. If over there still is a pulse, a 2nd volley deserve to be ordered.

Just just how lethal a firing formation is has actually been explained by Gardner’s brother, Randy, that tried unsuccessfully to sway Utah lawgiver in 2015 no to carry it ago as one alternative.

He said he could stick 4 fingers into the hole in his brother’s chest whereby the shots went, speak he thought the heart was blown out with his back.


Witnesses come Garner’s execution said once an main asked Gardner if the had any type of last words, the said, “No, I execute not.”

After the volley at 12:15 am, witnesses stated they saw his hand clench and then loosen. He was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

Gardner to be sentenced to death after a 1985 failure courthouse escape attempt throughout which he killed a lawyer. He remained in court at the moment facing another murder charge over a killing at a bar.

"May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims,” Utah Attorney basic Mark Shurtleff said at the moment of his execution.

Putnam believes the integrity of a shooting squad’s work and the speed with i beg your pardon the inmate is eliminated make the technique more humane 보다 the current lethal-injection process.

But in 2015, YouGov, an global internet-based sector research firm, carried out a poll questioning respondents i m sorry execution techniques they uncovered to it is in cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the poll, 18 percent found lethal-injection cruel and also unusual while 53 percent discovered a firing formation cruel and also unusual. Of various other forms, the poll discovered 54 percent classified the electrical chair together cruel while 67 percent offered that category for hanging, 52 percent for the gas chamber and 81 percent because that beheading.

“The difficulty with other methods is the public simply doesn’t like them,” Dunham said.

He said what has actually happened v execution methods in the country is both a paradox and an irony.

“States relocated away from techniques of execution, particularly the electrical chair, because of the growing public late that, once done properly, one execution in the electrical chair is cruel and unusual punishment,” the said.


It became worse, that said, after ~ botched executions in Florida. Afterward, state can be fried courts in Georgia and also Nebraska claimed electrocution unconstitutional under their state constitutions, Dunham said.

“It is most likely that any kind of attempt come bring back the electric chair will face really substantial constitution challenges,” he said.

There room fewer constitutional obstacles to a shoot squad, he said.

“The an obstacle with a firing squad is just one of public perception and public taste,” Dunham said.

Alternatives come lethal injection are viewed as too gruesome by the public, that said. Lethal injection had actually an appearance of peacefulness and also civility until botched executions.

He said, however, the the picture of peacefulness to be made feasible by drugs which led to the body to be sedated and paralyzed, preventing any type of indication the pain. Now that says are using other drug combinations, witnesses space reporting indications that pain, and those photos are upsetting people, Dunham said.

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“I think that paradoxical and ironic that the technique of execution the states moved to to try and do executions much more humane and also to try and make them less overtly violent is currently under strike for being inhumane and tortuous,” that said.