The idea of executing prisoners by firing squad is making a comeback, and experts say it may actually be more humane than lethal injections.
Earlier this week, Idaho lawmakers approved a bill authorizing its use in capital punishment, adding the state to the short list of countries that support the measure, including Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
The reason for the legislation stems from Idaho’s struggle to obtain the drugs used in lethal injections, after pharmaceutical companies began banning the use of their drugs.
The bill authorizes the use of firing squads only if lethal drugs cannot be obtained.
But some, including several Supreme Court justices, argue that the common practice of lethal injections is not as painless as many assume.
In a 2017 Supreme Court case involving an Alabama inmate who asked to be executed by firing squad, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued in favor of the inmate.
Sotomayor said studies showed that lethal injections could mask extreme pain by paralyzing inmates while they are still conscious. Comparatively, a firing squad could be more humane despite its striking visual nature.
“In addition to being nearly instantaneous, death by gunshot can also be comparatively painless,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.
The idea is based on the premise that the bullets will supposedly hit the heart and immediately rupture it, causing the victim to lose consciousness instantly.
Death by firing squad might also be more reliable, according to a study led by Amherst College law and political science professor Austin Sarat.
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Sarat examined 8,776 executions in the US between 1890 and 2010 and found that 7.12% of all lethal injections were unsuccessful or “very problematic” in terms of efficacy.
Comparatively, Sarat found no botched executions in the 34 carried out by firing squad, although he did call in his study for an end to all forms of capital punishment.
Capital punishment remains legal at the federal level in 27 US states, and the debate over the best methods continues.
Some argue that firing squads cannot be totally painless either. In a 2019 federal case, anesthesiologist Joseph Antognini said inmates could remain conscious for up to 10 seconds after being shot.
Those seconds could be “very painful, especially related to broken bones and spinal cord damage,” Antognini said.
Others point to the problematic nature of the killings, stating that the violence could traumatize the relatives of the victims, or those who have to carry out the firings, as well as the staff responsible for cleaning up afterward.
with cable news services