The Corner

Law & the Courts

Mississippi Is Right to Fall Back on Firing Squads for Its Executions

CBS reports:

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi House wants to allow the state prisons to execute prisoners using a firing squad if officials decide lethal injection is too expensive or unavailable.

Governor Phil Bryant voiced his support of the bill.

“If the senate passes a firing squad bill, I’ll certainly sign it. My belief is we need to carry out a capital punishment that when the courts say that it’s necessary; and if it takes a firing squad we’ll do exactly that,” said Governor Bryant.

Good for the Mississippi House. Not, of course, because I approve of the death penalty (I don’t), but because the arguments made against the use of firing squads are almost always either cowardly or cynical.

When coming from pro-death-penalty types, they’re cowardly because they tend to be made by people who want the state to kill people but who don’t want to see what death looks like. That, after all, is what lethal injection is: A way of medicalizing executions so that those who endorse them do not have to face their violence.

Coming from anti-death-penalty types, the rejection of firing squads tends to be made as part of an attempt to destroy capital punishment by undemocratic means. The real reason that many anti-death penalty campaigners are against alternative killing methods is that they’ve been fighting hard to get rid of the drugs that are necessary for lethal injections and they don’t want to see their efforts undermined by men with rifles.

I am against the death penalty, but if we’re going to have it we should be honest about what we’re doing. If Mississippi is prepared to kill people who have erred beyond penal redemption, it should be prepared to do so without euphemism. Clearly, it is. That’s honest, at least.

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