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Utah eliminates firing squad executions

Associated Press, March 17, 2004

In Salt Lake City, Gov. Olene Walker has done away with firing squads in Utah, leaving injection as the only method for executing condemned killers.

The Utah Legislature passed the measure late last month, and Walker had said she intended to sign it. She did so Monday without comment.

Lawmakers have said the elimination of firing squads will deny killers the chance to go out in a blaze of glory. Despite the measure's passage, the state will make allowance for 4 death row inmates who have already chosen to die in a hail of bullets.

Since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, 2 people in the United States have died by firing squad, both in Utah: Gary Gilmore in 1977 and John Albert Taylor in 1996. Taylor's execution drew more than 150 TV crews from around the world.

A relic of its territorial days, Utah's firing squads employ 5 riflemen, 1 of whom shoots a blank so that none will know who fired the lethal shots.

Idaho and Oklahoma retain the firing squad on their books but have not used it in modern times.


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