It is being reported that Utah has just announced that it will be using firing squads to carry out death sentences for three convicts. This makes Utah the second state after Oklahoma to permit the use of firing squads in the wake of a shortage of chemicals used in the administration of lethal injections.
Several of the companies that produce chemicals used in lethal injections have refused to sell their products to states on medical ethics grounds. The chemicals have non lethal medical applications as well.
Utah reinstated the use of firing squads in 2015 after several companies that produce drugs used in lethal injections began refusing to sell them to state departments of corrections on medical ethics grounds.
Taborn Dave Honie, Troy Michael Kell and Ralph Leroy Menzies will be the first three inmates put to death under the reinstated method.
All three men were allowed to choose between different methods and opted for death by firing squad over lethal injection. All three were convicted of murder, while Honie had also been convicted of rape as well. Their executions dates have not yet been determined.
The medications used in lethal injections is produced by only a handful of companies, some of which are located in countries that do not permit capital punishment. In recent years, these firms have argued that it goes against medical ethics to allow their drugs to be used in executions, and have voluntarily severely limited or halted the sale of these drugs to state corrections departments.
Oklahoma and Utah have brought back the use of firing squads to allow them to continue carrying out death sentences. Oklahoma has also produced a system by which condemned are forced to breath nitrogen gas until they succumb to asphyxiation. South Carolina and Mississippi have legislation pending to reinstate the electric chair.
Since 1992, The Innocence Project has exonerated three hundred and forty three people across the United States who were wrongfully convicted, included more than twenty who were given death sentences. Their efforts have also led to the correct identification of more than one hundred and forty actual perpetrators.
The Innocence Project was founded by attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in 1992 after a US department of Justice study determined that faulty testimony by eyewitnesses was responsible for more than seventy percent of all wrongful convictions.
The Innocence Project makes use of DNA testing of evidence which may not have been available prior to the early 1990’s, or where it may have led to inaccurate or faulty results.
Many wrongful convictions occur because of faulty eyewitness testimony. Once thought to be incontrovertible, a growing body of evidence suggests that eyewitnesses are among the least accurate sources of evidence. Improper forensic practices and coerced confessions make up a smaller, yet still significant percentage of wrongful convictions.
The Innocence Project is part of a larger effort by law schools, journalists and public defender’s offices to serve as advocates for the wrongfully accused. It is currently active in forty six US states and several other nations, and receives funding through donations from individuals and corporations, as well as annual fundraising events and the Cardozo School of Law in New York.
Do you know someone who was wrongly convicted of a crime and later exonerated? How do you feel about the death penalty as a method of punishment by the government? Please share your thoughts and stories with us here.