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OFFICIALS BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO FIRING-SQUAD OPTION

SHARE OFFICIALS BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO FIRING-SQUAD OPTION

Before John Albert Taylor was shot to death by a firing squad last month, corrections officials said they preferred to execute condemned inmates by lethal injection.

But the convicted child-killer's execution went so smoothly, and in some ways so much easier, that corrections officials now say they want to keep the firing squad.A bill eliminating the firing squad as a method of execution was put on hold Monday after corrections officials asked the bill's sponsor to amend it. Corrections Director Lane McCotter said he's very comfortable with the firing squad as an option.

"Frankly, the firing squad was easier to deal with from a logistical standpoint because you didn't need medical support," McCotter said. The American Medical Association has forbidden doctors or registered nurses from participating in any kind of killing, including executions.

The amendment he asked for would leave the decision of how a condemned inmate dies up to the Department of Corrections.

"The inmate should not choose," McCotter said, pointing out that Taylor repeatedly said he picked the firing squad to cause the state headaches and because he believed it looked more like murder, which is what he believed it to be.

As director of corrections in Texas, McCotter oversaw 12 lethal-injection executions. He said his experiences with that method make him want to keep the firing squad.

He points to intravenous drug users. Using needles to administer illegal drugs can cause a person's veins to collapse. In one case, McCotter said, it took officials more than an hour to get a needle into the arm of a condemned inmate in Texas.

"I'm much more comfortable with having an option," McCotter said. It's the fact that the choice belongs to the inmate that bothers him.

Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, said she agreed to hold the bill after talking to McCotter, but promised the issue wouldn't die.

"This is a good bill, a good idea," she said. "But we want to study it over the summer."

Allen introduced her bill the dayafter Taylor's execution, which garnered national and international headlines. He was killed by a five-person firing squad on Jan. 26 in one of the prison's warehouses.

More than 100 reporters from around the world covered the execution - the first firing squad execution in the country in 19 years. Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said the media attention was essentially the only negative aspect of the execution for the department.

Allen's bill originally proposed to do away with the firing squad. That meant the only way to execute the condemned in Utah would have been through lethal injection. Currently, those sentenced to die choose between lethal injection and the firing squad.

A Deseret News/KSL poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates found that nearly 60 percent of Utahns favor keeping the firing squad option.

It's an issue that will undoubtedly be revisited.

"We'll work on this over the summer and come back next year," Allen promised.

Death-row inmate Ralph LeRoy Menzies also has opted for the firing squad. And Ronnie Lee Gardner, another condemned man, recently told the Deseret News that he wants to be shot to death.

"I'm going to fight for it," Gardner vowed. "We have no other decisions on our own, basically, and that's one I'd like to keep."