Salt Lake City, UT — A highly debated and controversial proposal to resurrect the use of Utah’s firing squads passed a critical vote in the state’s Legislature Friday.
Because of a tie, three missing lawmakers were called back to vote; all three voted in favor of the bill.
Not that party matters, in the least, but it was the Republican-controlled House who voted 39-34 Friday morning to approve the measure, sending it on to the state’s GOP-controlled Senate.
The Senate is mum on whether or not they plan to pass it and Utah’s Governor, Gary Herbert, is also keeping quiet.
According to Fox News,
Lawmakers in House of Representatives initially voted 35-35 on the proposal Friday morning. But Paul Ray asked for three missing lawmakers to be summoned to the floor, where they all voted in favor.
During that time, Riverton Republican Rep. Dan McCay switched to vote in favor, allowing the measure to pass 39-34. When asked later by The Associated Press about the switch, McCay smiled and walked away without commenting.
Paul Ray, the bill’s sponsor, argues that being shot to death by a group of marksmen is more humane than lethal injection.
To the contrary, the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center says that a firing squad is not a foolproof method because the inmate could move or shooters could miss the heart, causing a slower, more painful death.
One such case happened in Utah’s territorial days back in 1879 when a firing squad missed Wallace Wilkerson’s heart and it took him 27 minutes to die, according to newspaper accounts.
The real issue at hand, however, capital punishment, wasn’t brought up at all. For the state to claim the responsibility of justly ending life, it means that the state must never be wrong. Even the most ardent of statists will have to concede that an infallible state is but a terribly written fiction.
John Adams once wrote:
It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished….
When the state is more concerned about how to go about punishing the guilty, than protecting innocence, a revolution is at hand.
The National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School reported that 125 falsely accused prisoners were exonerated in 2014. Some of these 125 people were set to die at the hand of the state for their convictions.
It is no secret that prosecutors will seek the maximum punishment for the maximum charge, and their conviction percentages are in the upper 90’s.
Does that mean that these prosecutors are flawless machines hell bent on distributing some mythical immaculate justice? Or, does it actually mean that the entire system wishes more to hand out punishments, instead of seeking truth?
Last month, we reported on 49-year-old Derrick Hamilton, a former prisoner who was finally exonerated in a case where he was framed by crooked NYPD cops.
Had Hamilton lived in Utah, his bullet-filled body would have long been cremated.
It is important to note that this is not a call for crimes to go unpunished, that would be irresponsible. However, the slaughter of innocence is a far more grave thought.
In criminal law, Blackstone’s formulation (also known as Blackstone’s ratio or the Blackstone ratio) is the principle that:
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”
In a perfect system, irrefutable evidence would exist in every conviction. But this system is far from perfect.
Until we strive for a more perfect system, the manner in which death is dolled out by the hand of incompetence, is of no significance; such talk is but the ramblings of tyrants.