The Corner

Law & the Courts

Execution by Firing Squad

The Associated Press reports that “two men on Oklahoma’s death row — at the prodding of a federal judge — agreed to choose execution by firing squad as a way to delay their upcoming lethal injections.” Obviously, the inmates are hoping it won’t come to that. Still, their choice raises an interesting point.

I’m no fan of the death penalty, but since it is legal in many states, I do think the method matters. What does it say about human life when the state employs a doctor to administer lethal drugs? Isn’t this just involuntary euthanasia? Surely, we ought not to treat aggressive animals and criminals in the same way. Lethal injection sends the wrong message by medicalizing (and thus euphemizing) execution.

Death by firing squad is, in comparison, much more dignified. It is a clear punishment, administered by a marksman and met square in the face. Plus, as one of the inmate’s attorneys told the judge — it’s “quicker.”


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