capital punishment

Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution. The state abandoned firing squads in 2004 but now, it has returned as the backup option — partly because of a shortage of lethal injection drugs, the state's default execution method.

Utah is now the only state in the U.S. that authorizes execution by firing squad.

In 1977, death row inmate Gary Mark Gilmore chose to be executed by a firing squad. Gilmore was strapped to a chair at the Utah State Prison, and five officers shot him.

The media circus that ensued prompted a group of lawmakers in nearby Oklahoma to wonder if there might be a better way to handle executions. They approached Dr. Jay Chapman, the state medical examiner at the time, who proposed using three drugs, based loosely on anesthesia procedures at the time: one drug to knock out the inmates, one to relax or paralyze them, and a final drug that would stop their hearts.

Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett is prompting other states to question their use of the drug midazolam in lethal injections. The Lockett execution is fueling new calls to re-examine how states put inmates to death.

Death Penalty Fades As Hot-Button Issue

May 2, 2014

It's almost hard to remember how dominant an issue the death penalty was a generation ago.

Crime and drugs were the top issues for voters in 1994. Not coincidentally, support for the death penalty peaked that year, at 80 percent, according to Gallup polling.

States have always struggled to find humane ways to carry out the death penalty. For a generation, they have favored lethal injection, but that method has become increasingly problematic.

It's coming under increased scrutiny following the death of Clayton Lockett, who died Tuesday of a heart attack after writhing visibly during an execution attempt in Oklahoma.

The execution "fell short" of humane standards, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday.

Is The Death Penalty Dying A Slow Death?

Feb 8, 2014

This week, the state of Louisiana delayed the execution of Christopher Sepulvado, who was convicted of killing his 6-year-old stepson more than two decades ago.

Sepulvado’s lawyers argued that the two drugs that Louisiana officials wanted to use to put Sepulvado to death would violate his eighth amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

There’s a shortage of drugs used for capital punishment, and it’s leading some states to consider bringing back the electric chair or the firing squad.