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Wyoming firing squad: Wyoming proposes, votes down, execution via firing squad

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A Wyoming firing squad proposal is not going to be considered by the state’s Senate, reports The Associated Press on Tuesday. The proposed change in capital punishment was suggested by Wyo. Republican Bruce Burns, who said executions via firing squad would save the state money on purchasing the required drugs for lethal injections.

Currently, Wyoming, like most states, executes criminals using lethal drug injections. As a backup, state law calls for the use of a gas chamber, but the state has no existing chamber. Burns said compared to the expense to build and maintain the chamber, a firing squad would be much more cost effective.

"The state of Wyoming doesn't have a gas chamber currently, an operating gas chamber, so the procedure and expense to build one would be impractical to me," said Burns.

Surprisingly, the bill almost passed the initial stages. A two-thirds majority is needed in order for a bill to be introduced to the state Senate; it failed Tuesday on a vote of 17 in favor, 13 opposed.

"I consider frankly the gas chamber to be cruel and unusual, so I went with firing squad because they also have it in Utah," Burns commented.

Utah was the first state to resume executions after capital punishment was reinstated in the United States in 1976. Executions in Utah are currently performed by lethal injection. A firing squad is available, though only three have been executed by that means. Utah is the only state actively practicing that form of punishment.

"One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because frankly it's one of the cheapest for the state," Burns said. "The expense of building a gas chamber I think would be prohibitive when you consider how many people would be executed by it, and even the cost of gallows."

Wyoming has only one inmate on death row. That state’s last execution was in 1992.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., said Wyoming would face constitutional challenges if the bill ever made it passed the state Senate.

"It would raise concerns in the federal courts, perhaps the state courts, about whether an unusual, perhaps a cruel and unusual punishment is being inflicted," Dieter said. "I don't know how the ultimate ruling would come down, but I think there would be delays as that case got considered and it might even go up to the Supreme Court. This would be unusual.”

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