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In Praise of Firing Squads

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Update: Jennifer Dobner has this story for AP.

As Utah prepares to dispatch murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner "old school," we find support of sorts for the firing squad in unexpected places. Margot Sanger-Katz writes in Slate, "This may sound gory, but the limited body of research on death penalty methods suggests that the firing squad is actually a pretty good way to go....  Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School who has studied execution methods for nearly two decades, said she'd pick the firing squad if offered Gardner's choice between the two methods."

"All of which raises the question: Why did the states drop firing squads in the first place? Death penalty scholars say that legislators tend to like lethal injection because it appears dignified and medical."

Huh? What scholar said that? Legislatures "preferred" lethal injection because, at the time, it was the way to shut down the distracting, delaying method-of-execution controversy and litigation. Justice Stevens wrote in his dissent in the Robert Alton Harris case that the gas chamber's pain was unnecessary because all the experts said lethal injection was so much better.  Okay, said death penalty supporters in the legislature. If that's what it takes to shut down the litigation, we will do that.

It worked. For a while.

More recently, opponents have claimed that the three-drug method creates an unnecessary risk of pain -- unnecessary because the one-drug method is so much better. Ohio said okay, we'll use the one-drug method. The "nonpartisan" DPIC immediately started screeching that Ohio was experimenting with untested methods on humans. This is the Roseanne Roseannadanna method of attacking the death penalty.

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K.S.: If you have the time or inclination, you may be interested in this example of an oral argument regarding the three-drug protocol vs. the one-drug protocol.


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