Wyoming Advances Bill Allowing Death By Firing Squad

Death penalty opponent Joyce Engle holds a sign as she sits on the stairs of St. Francis Xavier College Church during a vigil
Death penalty opponent Joyce Engle holds a sign as she sits on the stairs of St. Francis Xavier College Church during a vigil hours before the scheduled execution of Missouri death row inmate Russell Bucklew on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in St. Louis. A federal appeals court has granted a stay of execution for Bucklew, hours before he was scheduled to die for killing a southeast Missouri man in 1996. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday cited concerns about Russell Bucklews' rare medical condition, which raised the risk of "unnecessary pain and suffering by the inmate." (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

WASHINGTON -- A Wyoming legislative committee voted against a measure to abolish the death penalty last week, instead opting to endorse death by firing squad.

The state's Joint Judiciary Legislative Committee voted to support a bill that would allow the the Wyoming Department of Corrections to use a firing squad to execute an inmate if the proper drugs can't be found for a lethal injection.

States have been scrambling to procure drugs to execute inmates, as major drug companies have stopped selling certain lethal injection drugs in the U.S or objected to having their products used in executions. On Friday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) announced the state had to delay an execution because it didn't have the drugs it needed.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Wyoming currently authorizes execution by gas chamber if lethal injection is ever found to be unconstitutional, but it doesn't specify what to do if the drugs for lethal injection simply aren't available.

Only two other states have provisions allowing for firing squad executions. Utah officials can execute by firing squad if lethal injection is ever found unconstitutional. It also allows inmates who chose to die by firing squad prior to May 3, 2004 to use that method. According to the Associated Press, Utah last used a firing squad to execute someone in 2010.

Oklahoma allows electrocution as a back-up to lethal injection, but firing squads can be used if both of those methods are deemed unconstitutional.

The death by firing squad bill will be considered when the legislature meets in January, according to Wyoming Public Media. The state Senate took up firing squad legislation earlier this year and voted it down.

State Rep. Stephen Watt (R) was one of the lawmakers who voted against the firing squad bill last week. He was shot and seriously wounded while serving with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and said his opposition was based on his personal experience.

"We're all operating under the assumption that this is going to be instantaneous death," Watt said, according to the AP. "What happens if everybody misses?"

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