Yael T. Abouhalkah

Ready, aim, fire: Missouri’s execution squad plan deserves a shot

Updated: 2014-03-21T19:13:59Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill apparently doesn’t support the idea of her state using a firing squad to kill prisoners sentenced to death.

On Saturday, McCaskill tweeted, “Not my state’s finest moment.” She then linked to this story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Basically, some Missouri Republican state representatives — led by Rick Brattin of Harrisonville — want to allow five law enforcement officers to ready, aim and fire at people on death row.

Why? These elected officials want to show that Missouri is serious about executing people. It’s a way of playing up to the ultra-conservatives in the state who are bound and determined to keep the death penalty intact.

So it’s fair to ask: Despite McCaskill’s reservations, what’s so wrong with letting officers with guns — rather than drugs — kill criminals?

True, no other state routinely uses firing squads. Very few people have been executed that way in the history of the country.

Yet Missouri still has the barbaric death penalty in place. It uses lethal drugs — now obtained in questionable, possibly illegal ways — to execute people.

It once used a gas chamber to murder these criminals.

What, in the end, is so much more barbaric about using a firing squad to kill them?

“A firing squad would be quick and something we could do at a moment,” Brattin said. “My opinion is they would suffer less than with lethal injection.”

That’s an interesting opinion. Does Brattin have any facts to back it up? That would be interesting to hear — if his bill gets a hearing.

But it also would be good for detractors of the death penalty to have the opportunity to share their view that executing people with guns is worse than using drugs.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Democrats are trotting out an idea to study how the state carries out the death penalty, given the recent controversy over the use of lethal drugs.

Correctly, some of them want to get rid of Missouri’s death penalty.

Unfortunately for Herbert Smulls of St. Louis, a legislative study of the law will not be done in time to prevent his appointment with execution by drug injection on Jan. 29.

As usual, only a court could prevent his murder by the state — which could be the third in the last few months.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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