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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Utah's Firing Squads

     The last person put to death by firing squad in the United States was John Albert Taylor, a convicted child killer executed in Utah in 1996. He was the 49th person executed by firing squad in that state….

     A Utah firing squad consists of five volunteer police officers from the county in which the crime occurred. One of the squad's rifles is loaded with a blank. No member of the squad knows which rifle contains the blank….

     Utah abolished death by firing squad in 2004 and now uses lethal injection to kill its inmates. But the law was not retroactive so inmates with a death sentence imposed before that date can choose between firing squad and lethal injection. An inmate who chooses the firing squad sits in a specially designed chair that restrains his or her arms, legs, and chest. The head is loosely confined so that it remains upright.

     The condemned inmate wears a dark blue outfit with a white cloth circle attached by Velcro over the heart. Sandbags behind the chair catch the four bullets and prevent ricochets. Some twenty feet in front of the chair stands a wall with five firing ports. The inmate may read a final statement before the warden places a hood over  his or her head. The firing squad takes aim at the white cloth circle and fires simultaneously at the warden's command. The bullets rupture the heart, lungs, and major arteries, causing near instant death from shock and hemorrhage. The lower part of the chair in which the prisoner sits contains a pan to catch the flow of blood and other body fluids that rush out of the prisoner's body.

Billy Wayne Sinclair and Jodie Sinclair, Capital Punishment, 2009 

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