Washington, DC (March 20, 2015) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is strongly urging Utah Governor Gary Herbert to veto House Bill 11 that would amend Utah's death penalty statute to reinstate executions by firing squad. Utah had abolished execution by firing squad in 2004. Only one state in the nation – Oklahoma -- has a law that would permit execution by this method. No other developed nation permits execution by firing squad.
In a letter from NACDL President Theodore Simon on behalf of the Association, Simon is clear that NACDL's long-standing position is that it opposes the imposition of capital punishment in all its forms and under all circumstances. To the extent that the practice of state-sponsored execution continues, though, NACDL has grave concerns about the Utah firing squad legislation and has made them clear to Governor Herbert.
As Simon explained in his letter to the Governor, "Reinstatement of executions by firing squad would constitute an embarrassing step backward that would adversely affect Utah's reputation for moral leadership by providing for a mode of punishment that is almost universally rejected in the United States and throughout the world….The overwhelming consensus against execution by firing squad demonstrates that this practice is inconsistent with the ‘evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,' and therefore is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment." The letter goes on to explain that to pass constitutional muster, a method of execution must not be designed to inflict unnecessary pain – a standard that simply cannot be met where killing by firing squad is concerned.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.