This week, the United States Supreme Court denied hearing the case of an Alabama death row inmate fighting to be executed by firing squad. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, this isn't about a case from 1868. An Alabama inmate actually wants to be executed via firing squad, and the government is saying no, and the courts have agreed.
While the cost of actually going through with executions generally costs more than housing an inmate for life, state courts are still sentencing people to death, despite the fiscal implications. Over the last few decades, the vast majority of executions have been done via lethal injection, but that method has come under increasing scrutiny due to failed executions that resembled torture. To avoid being subjected to the risks involved with the lethal injection, the Alabama death row inmate was seeking a quick and guaranteed death by firing squad.
The Death of the Firing Squad
Currently, there are only two states in country where a death row inmate may be executed by firing squad. In Utah, an inmate may elect to be executed by a firing squad, and in Oklahoma, if a lethal injection fails, then a firing squad can be elected by the inmate.
However antiquated it might sound to utilize a firing squad for an execution, it actually isn't all that antiquated at all. Until the lethal injection became the norm across the country, it was a common method of execution, along with the electric chair and even the gas chamber. Furthermore, the research suggests that barring intentional cruelty, death by firing squad is efficient and quick.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
For many, the thought of using a firing squad, gas chamber, or even electric chair, for executions may sound like the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment, but that phrase is relative. Many people consider any form of the death penalty to be cruel and unusual. At one point, the Supreme Court declared that all death penalty sentences were unconstitutional; however, a few years later, guidance was provided regarding how death penalties could be ordered without violating the Eighth Amendment.
Now, due to the widespread unavailability of the drugs used for lethal injections, the states that want to continue executing death row inmates have been looking for alternative methods.