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Ronnie Lee Gardner: Is Utah firing squad a more humane execution?

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Mr. Holdridge says the number of proven, wrongful executions has now reached 138. And Cleveland-based criminal defense attorney Elizabeth Kelley says that 250 exonerations of death-row defendants in recent years, coupled with medical procedural TV shows such as CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” have made the public more sophisticated about the fallibility of scientific evidence.

Holdridge says the Gardner execution by firing squad will be more dramatic and argues that it will raise more public opposition to the death penalty itself than would a lethal injection, which makes the death appear more humane and clinical.

“The Gardner execution really brings to the spotlight what we are doing – exterminating a human life in a deliberate, premeditated fashion,” Holdridge says. He notes that one of the five rifles is loaded with a blank round so that each shooter is uncertain about whether or not he fired a fatal shot.

But is it also a deterrent? Dr. Allison Cotton, associate professor of criminology at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, says shooting a convict sends a mixed message.

“Shooting a person because he shot a person to death – to deter others from shooting people – is faulty reasoning,” says Cotton.

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