Execution: Utah’s simple plan - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Execution: Utah’s simple plan

Photo above: The Utah firing squad chamber. (YouTube)

My hat’s off to Utah. They appear to be on the verge of becoming the first state to realize by simplifying something, in this case, executions, they are able to solve a problem. Usually, elected officials do just the opposite. They tend to “solve” problems by over complicating matters — which end up creating much bigger problems. Just read our tax code or the Affordable Care Act if you do not believe me.

Gary Gilmore, the convicted killer who started the modern day firing squad trend when he petitioned the court to be executed by a Utah firing squad in 1977. (Wikipedia)

Gary Gilmore, the convicted killer who started the modern day firing squad trend when he petitioned the court to be executed by a Utah firing squad in 1977.
(Wikipedia)

Somehow, we have managed to become a nation that can efficiently and humanely euthanize a pet, but are unable to do the same with a convicted killer. States with the death penalty are quickly running out of the drug cocktail used to execute convicted killers, primarily because these drugs are manufactured in European nations that are opposed to the death penalty. It seems they have a moral objection to their drugs being used to kill our killers — which is odd because they love it when our military kills terrorists who kill their citizens. It’s also strange our states have not figured out how to deliver a massive dose of heroin to a convicted killer, something that can be found in many police lock up units.

Anyway, it now appears the use of firing squads no longer seems inhumane. Six marksmen from twelve feet should be able to put a killer out of the public’s misery. I will leave it to the state of Utah to decide whether or not to use hollow tip points. There won’t be any writhing on a gurney from a botched injection. Killers won’t have to gasp for air as they are forced to breathe in poisonous gas. There won’t be the smell of burning skin and hair from thousands of volts of electricity. And no one will be given the task of sewing a head back on to a neck as a result of a guillotine. Simple is always better when an execution is involved.

An anti-Batista insurgent being executed by firing squad in Cuba, 1959. (Wikipedia)

An anti-Batista insurgent being executed by firing squad in Cuba, 1959.
(Wikipedia)

In a day and age where we can use drones, cruise missiles, and smart bombs with the efficiency of a skilled surgeon, we should feel good about being able to execute someone for the small cost of six bullets. Best of all, it should be easy in a nation with more than 300 million guns to find volunteers to pull the triggers. I nominate Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, Clint Eastwood, Ice-T, Angelina Jolie, and Bruce Willis for my firing squad of choice.

Still, there is one major hurdle before we can enact firing squads for executions. Even by replacing the cost of three very expensive drugs with a half dozen bullets, easily purchased on sale at a local Wal-Mart, there is the matter of how much time and money it takes before someone is actually executed. You see, it still costs twice as much money to execute a convicted killer than it does to house him in jail for the rest of his life, sometimes two or three lives if they are serving consecutive life sentences.

It turns out, before a state can execute a killer, the killer is entitled to numerous lengthy and costly appeals. This is why we often see people sitting on death row for decades before they are executed. Each appeal is paid for by the taxpayer and let’s face it, defense attorneys know how to milk us for a ton of money before we get the pleasure of pumping six bullets into a killer’s upper torso.

This is why I suggest another very simple solution, one that speeds up the process of execution and is a model of judicial efficiency, the likes of which have not been seen since the Wild West. How many appeals does a convicted killer get? Let’s just say the average is six. Why not just use six judges on every murder trial, one for each level of appeal? One trial; all levels of judicial oversight at one time; and that’s that.

The Utah State Prison at Wasatch where Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in 1977. (Wikipedia)

The Utah State Prison at Wasatch where Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in 1977.
(Wikipedia)

We can eliminate five trials and all their legal costs in one fell swoop and in the process, make the cost of an execution a fraction of a life sentence. Time on death row is suddenly decreased, by decades in some cases, while a victim’s family is spared the long and painful wait for justice. The only losers are the killer and his defense attorneys, neither of which the general public gives a rat’s ass about.

Simply put, by simplifying the appeals process and resuming the use of firing squads, we might actually have a death penalty that enacts swift and affordable justice rather than one that makes a mockery of our judicial process.

“Why not just end the death penalty all together,” you ask?

We could, but there is no fun in doing that when we have such a violent culture.

 





About the author

James Moore

James Moore is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching and currently runs his own personal training business, In Home Jim, in Hemet, CA. Jim's writings are often the end result of his thoughts mulled over while riding his bike for hours on end. Contact the author.
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