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A group of Utahns on Tuesday delivered a petition at the state Capitol asking Gov. Gary Herbert to veto legislation that would allow execution by firing squad in the state.
The MoveOn.org petition contains about 6,200 signatures, with more than 500 of them from Utah, according to its backers. The Utah MoveOn members delivering the petition included Ralph Dellapiana, who also is director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Dellapiana said it is disgraceful that the discussion in the state is centered on how to kill people. "The alternative we should be talking about is an alternative without the death penalty," Dellapiana said.
He added, "It's a moral issue. It violates the sanctity of life."
The Senate voted 18-10 last week to pass HB11 and sent it to Herbert for his signature. It earlier passed the House 39-34, with just one vote to spare, after intense debate that focused mainly on whether to abolish the death penalty.
HB11 allows the state to use a firing squad if the drug cocktail necessary for lethal injection is not available at least 30 days before a scheduled execution. Foreign manufacturers of the drugs used in lethal injection have worked to prevent their use in executions.
Herbert has not yet said whether he will sign the bill. Austin Cox, his constituent services director, accepted the petition.
The firing squad was legal in Utah until 2004, when the law was changed to make lethal injection the primary means of execution. Current Utah law allows a return to the firing squad only if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional, although it is allowed as an option for those on death row who selected death by firing squad prior to the 2004 change. Oklahoma has a similar law allowing a firing squad if lethal injection and electrocution are ruled unconstitutional.
The last person put to death by firing squad in Utah was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. His brother, Randy Gardner, was part of the group delivering the petition.
"It's very, very barbaric," Gardner said of the death penalty. "It's not something we should be doing, killing our citizens."