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Bill to legalize firing squad executions passes Legislature

Bullets could replace needles for executions in Utah under a bill passed by the state Legislature. HB11 would legalize firing squad executions in the state if drugs needed for lethal injections aren’t available.
Bullets could replace needles for executions in Utah under a bill passed by the state Legislature. HB11 would legalize firing squad executions in the state if drugs needed for lethal injections aren’t available.
Trent Nelson, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Bullets could replace needles for executions in Utah under a bill passed by the state Legislature.

HB11 would legalize firing squad executions in the state if drugs needed for lethal injections aren’t available 30 or more days before the date of the death warrant.

The Senate approved the bill 18-10 on Tuesday without debate.

Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said the measure does not accomplish what many people want — to do away with the death penalty.

"This only puts another alternative on the table," he said before voting against the bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

Davis earlier asked for legislative leadership to look at Utah’s death penalty law during the upcoming interim session.

Ray has said he's running the bill because of botched executions in other states. He said prisons need a backup to lethal injections.

The House narrowly approved HB11 last month.

Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement Tuesday saying Utah has an obligation to carry out a court's death warrant and state law is clear that lethal injection is the method to do that.

"We have no intent to change that," he said.

But states around the country find it increasingly difficult to obtain the drugs required for lethal injection, Herbert said. He said the state would pursue all reasonable and legal options to get them.

"However, if those substances cannot be obtained, this proposal would make sure that those instructed to carry out the lawful order of the court and the carefully deliberated decision of the jury can do so," Herbert said.

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