Florida considers joining Iran and North Korea in use of firing squad

October 14, 2011

A Florida State Representative is calling for the introduction of death by firing squad to avoid legal challenges to the use of lethal injection in executions.

State Rep. Brad Drake has filed a bill “providing that a death sentence shall be executed by electrocution or firing squad.” He says the idea came to him in a waffle house, after discussing a Florida prisoner’s challenges to his lethal injection on the grounds it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Rep. Drake has argued “let’s end the debate […] We still have Old Sparky. And if that doesn’t suit the criminal, then we will provide them a .45 caliber lead cocktail instead.” He also reportedly said that “if it were up to me we would just throw them off the Sunshine Skyway bridge and be done with it” — although his bill does not currently contain provision for this method. Regimes that currently kill their own citizens by firing squad include Iran, North Korea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the US state of Utah.States that have rejected capital punishment altogether include Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome And Principe, Senegal, Serbia (including Kosovo), Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Venezuela. Maya Foa, investigator for legal action charity Reprieve, said: 

“What this does highlight is that there is no humane way to execute a person.There is a widespread myth that executions by lethal injection are less painful than other ostensibly ‘barbaric’ methods. But medical professionals and the pharmaceutical industry are now joining forces to debunk this. The clinical veil that has hidden the true nature of executions is being torn aside and the reality revealed; capital punishment is not a medical procedure, it’s murder: enter the firing squad.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. Rep. Drakes’ bill http://richmedia.onset.freedom.com/nwfdn/lsxkld-12deathpenalty.pdf And comments: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/brad-drake-florida-death-penalty_n_1007540.html http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/bill-44369-drake-lethal.html2. World Day Against the Death Penalty 2011 focused on execution as cruel and unusual punishment.

3.  Recently, over 90 doctors from the US, Canada, Europe and India successfully petitioned pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck to take action to stop its drug pentobarbital being used in lethal injections.  Pentobarbital was not designed for use in surgical anaesthesia, and both medical experts and the manufacturer agree that use in executions could cause agonising pain and suffering. Executions using pentobarbital have failed properly to anaesthetize prisoners, leading to severe and prolonged agony. An eyewitness from the Associated Press has described the “thrashing, jerking death of Roy Willard Blankenship” during which “his eyes never closed”. The full text of Dr David Waisel’s affidavit on Roy Blankenship’s inadequate anaesthesia can be found on Reprieve’s website. 4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.  Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ 5. Reprieve’s Stop Lethal Injection Project investigates the use of lethal injection in the USA.