Inside the mind of an executioner

Written By komlim puldel on Senin, 16 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Some Utah politicians argue execution via firing squad is far more humane and faster than that conducted via lethal injection. Source: News Corp Australia

IT IS a grim job, and hardly one which would have appear to have an oversupply of staff.

Executing someone sounds like most people's worst nightmare, but for those who do undertake

the task, it is their job.

But what does it really take to mete out capital punishment for a living?

One Indonesian executioner recently shared his turmoil with News Corp journalist Paul Toohey, and the picture he paints is it is a tough one.

The unnamed man, who was part of a firing squad which executed five drug smugglers on Nusakambangan after midnight on January 18, has already been lined up as a shooter for the next round of executions.

This includes those of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

And while he will never know whether his rifle contained blanks or the real thing, it doesn't make his job any easier.

"As Brimob, I have to do my job and I don't have any choice," he told Toohey. "But as a human, I will never forget this for the rest of my life."

Utah wants to bring back death by firing squad. Source: AP


The feelings of Indonesian executers appear to be in stark contrast with those in the US.

In Utah, where they have announced plans to plans to bring back executions by firing squad,

state politician Paul Ray admits there are no shortage of volunteers when it comes to finding executioners.

Mr Ray said if the bill is successful, prison authorities will choose the gunmen from a pool of

volunteer officers, starting with those in the area where the crime happened, Mr Ray said.

"We've always had a lot more volunteers than actually had spots," he said.

Bi-monthly American magazine Pacific Standard delved into the mindsets of firing-squad volunteers and lethal-injection team members.

Interestingly it found they are the polar opposite with how most of those not involved in the process feel.

"After all, lethal injection is the first choice among all states that have the death penalty; other methods, including firing squads, can seem barbaric in comparison," journalist Francie Deip writes.

According to Pacific Standard, executioners appear to be more willing to volunteer for a firing

squad rather than administer a lethal injection.

The magazine cited the example in 2006 when Missouri state officials sent letters to 298 anaesthesiologists, asking if they would help with the state's executions. All refused.

However, when Utah executed death-row inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner, it used five anonymous

police officers who all volunteered for the job.

When it comes to administering a lethal injection, medial practitioners, who are trained to save a life rather than kill, are also more reluctant.


Utah's move is being seen as the most dramatic illustration yet of the nationwide frustration over bungled executions and shortages of lethal-injection drugs.

Utah and several other states are scrambling to modify their laws on the heels of a botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert refused to confirm if he will sign the firing-squad bill, a decision that's expected to be announced this week.

Mr Ray, the bill's sponsor, insists that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more humane than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry.

While Utah's next execution is probably a few years away, Mr Ray said that he wants to settle on a backup method now so authorities are not racing to find a solution if the drug shortage drags on.

Ronnie Lee Gardner pictured with lawyer Andrew Parnes, was executed by firing squad on June 18, 2010. Source: AP


Randy Gardner argues his brother hardly suffered a humane death.

The image of his brother's bullet-ridden body at the mortuary after he was executed, is one he will never forget.

His brother was the last person to die by a firing squad in Utah.

States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refuse to sell the components of lethal injections to US prisons.

While not condoning what his brother did — first killing a bartender and later fatally shooting a lawyer in the face and wounding a bailiff during a courthouse escape attempt, he said the firing squad was hardly humane.

"The firing squad is very barbaric" he said.

"When you take somebody and you tie them to a chair, put a hood over their head and you shoot them from 25 feet (8 meters) with four rifles pointed at their heart, that's pretty barbaric."

Mr Ray argues that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more humane than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry — or even if they go as planned.

"Your body is paralysed, you feel everything," Mr Ray said.

Randy Gardner said he saw his brother's body after his execution and his death was barbaric. Source: AP

"Your body slowly shuts down over a period of minutes based on the drug cocktail that's given to you. Whereas a firing squad, you reach the death obviously in three to five seconds."

Utah officials stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad in 2004, saying the method attracted intense media interest and took attention away from victims.

Utah is the only state in the past 40 years to carry out such a death sentence, with three executions by firing squad since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

In 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles in an event that generated international interest and sparked condemnation.

Three more death-row inmates who chose firing squad before the law changed would still have the option after their appeals are exhausted.

Under the new measure, the method would be based solely on the availability of lethal-injection drugs, not an inmate's choice.

State laws that allow methods other than lethal injection for executions are not unique to Utah.

In Washington, inmates can request a hanging. In New Hampshire, hangings are the default method if lethal injection cannot be given.

Outside the US, 54 countries allow executions by gunshot, including China, Vietnam, Uganda and Afghanistan, according to Cornell University Law School's Death Penalty Worldwide project.

Of those, 41 countries allow full firing squads while the others do it differently, such as by a single bullet at close range.

Only nine countries are known to have done a firing squad execution in the last decade, the school's research has found.

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