Thanks to a national shortage of the drugs used to perform lethal injections, Wyoming is planning to draft a bill that allows criminals on death row to be executed by firing squad.
Senator Bruce Burns proposed a bill that would allow firing squads as an option, though the judiciary committee will not be considering the firing-squad approach until it meets again this July. Although the impetus for the switch is the drug shortage, many, including Burns, see a firing squad as a preferable option for execution — unlike with the injection, the inmate feels nothing, and does not have to wait
Many states that do allow the death penalty are having more and more trouble obtaining the three-drug cocktail that is used for most lethal injections. European drug manufacturers are limited in what they can export owing to the European Union’s opposition to the death penalty. Many domestic drug makers have objected to their drugs being used this way, as well. The conventional administration of the drugs involves sodium thiopental, which renders the individual unconscious, potassium chloride, which stops the heart, and pancuronium bromide, which paralyses the muscles
For now, Wyoming has time; there is only one inmate on death row. Dale Wayne Eaton, 69, was sentenced to death for the murder of a teenager in 2004. Other states have already begun to feel the effects of the acute drug shortages, though; Connecticut has 11 inmates on death row but no way to access the drugs. Lawmakers for the state worry that the problem could add years to the litigation processes for these cases, which in turn costs even more money. Criminal defense fees vary, but can add up to thousands of dollars when drawn out over years and years of appeals. The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut also finds issue with the limited drug access, saying that this forces the state to engage in “barbaric experimentation” as they try to find another way to execute inmates.
Currently, Wyoming allows the gas chamber as a backup to lethal injection, which is the state’s primary method of execution. Wyoming, however, does not have a gas chamber, meaning that without the drug cocktail the state is unable to go through with its executions