Judge argues for return of firing squad executions

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Judge argues for return of firing squad executions
FILE - This June 18, 2010, file photo shows the firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. Ten years after banning the use of firing squads in state executions, Utah lawmakers on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, endorsed a proposal to resurrect the practice in order to head off problems with the lethal injection drugs. (AP Photo/Trent Nelson, Pool, File)
Lawmakers have given a preliminary nod to bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, proposed the bill that would bring back the firing squad only in the event that lethal injection was not available. Ray told the Utah State Legislature’s interim law enforcement and criminal justice committee that he was being proactive.
The execution chamber at the Utah State Prison is seen after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad Friday, June 18, 2010 in Draper Utah. Four bullet holes are visible in the wood panel behind the chair. Gardner was convicted of aggravated murder, a capital felony, in 1985.(AP Photo/Trent Nelson/Pool)
Bullet holes are visible in the wood panel behind the chair in the execution chamber at the Utah State Prison after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad Friday, June 18, 2010 in Draper Utah.. Gardner was convicted of aggravated murder in 1985.(AP Photo/Trent Nelson/Pool)
FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2015, file photo, Randy Gardner of Salt Lake City, the older brother of Ronnie Lee Gardner, the last inmate to be killed by firing squad in Utah in 2010, protests with a group opposed to capital punishment plans over one lawmaker's plan to resurrect the use of firing squads, outside the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. A bill to resurrect the use of firing squads in Utah has passed its first hurdle at the state Legislature. A House law enforcement committee voted 5-4 late Wednesday afternoon to approve the measure, with Republicans and one Democrat voting against. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Bullet holes are visible in the wood panel behind the chair in the execution chamber at the Utah State Prison after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad Friday, June 18, 2010 in Draper Utah.. Gardner was convicted of aggravated murder in 1985.(AP Photo/Trent Nelson/Pool)
Chart shows number of executions since 1976 by method.
Emperor Maximilian's firing squad - Seven soldiers with bayoneted rifles stand at ease, in row formation, another soldier with sword at far right. Mexico, 1867
PATHS OF GLORY 1957 United Artists film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The execution scene.
Vintage photo of a Firing Squad With Rifles
Lawmakers have given a preliminary nod to bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, proposed the bill that would bring back the firing squad only in the event that lethal injection was not available. Ray told the Utah State Legislature’s interim law enforcement and criminal justice committee that he was being proactive.
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - An influential federal appeals court judge said Thursday that the nation's third lethal injection execution to go awry in six months underscores his call to bring back firing squads.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said lethal injection was a "dishonest" attempt to disguise the brutal nature of capital punishment.

Kozinski first wrote of his distaste for lethal injection in a decision Monday, even while arguing against delaying the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III in Phoenix. Wood gasped for breath for more than 90 minutes and took nearly two hours to die Wednesday after receiving a lethal injection for killing his estranged girlfriend and her father.

Kozinski said properly trained firing squads are a "foolproof" way to quickly execute an inmate and avoid complications surrounding lethal injection.

In a dissent to Monday's ruling that put Wood's execution on hold but was overturned by the Supreme Court, Kozinski wrote: "Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful - like something any one of us might experience in our final moments. But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf."

On Thursday, Kozinski said that he never liked lethal injection, a method that has been dogged by drug shortages and legal challenges. He said firing squads would never be hampered by a shortage of guns or bullets.

"I've always thought executions should be executions," he told the AP, "not medical procedures."

Kozinski said he supports capital punishment but states and the federal government should abandon lethal injection and adopt a different method. He mentioned the guillotine as another "foolproof" method but said he doubted the public would accept that form of execution.

Kozinski is a reliable conservative vote on the left-leaning 9th Circuit and is known for his well-written and often-provocative opinions. He wrote about grappling with a penalty case for The New Yorker magazine in 1997.

He was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

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