Oklahoma lawmaker seeks other execution options

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Republican lawmaker reacting to an Oklahoma inmate’s botched lethal injection said Tuesday he wants to explore giving condemned prisoners the option of death by firing squad, hanging or the electric chair.

State Rep. Mike Christian said he’s formally requesting a legislative hearing on the state’s death penalty procedures following the April 29 death of Clayton Lockett, whose vein collapsed prompting prison officials to halt his punishment and note the execution drugs weren’t administered properly.

Lockett died of an apparent heart attack about 43 minutes after the execution began.

Christian, a former state highway patrolman from Oklahoma City, said he believes a firing squad would be the most logical second option after lethal injection.

“Firing squad, hanging and electric chair. I think those are the three that are definitely constitutional,” said Christian, who earlier this year called for the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices who supported a temporary stay of execution for Lockett. “I think just about anybody in Oklahoma would support some of these ideas we’re talking about.”

Christian has said previously he wouldn’t care if condemned inmates in Oklahoma were beheaded or fed to lions.

Five execution methods are currently legal in various places in the United States: injection, electrocution, gas, firing squad and hanging. Tennessee last month became the first state to allow use of the electric chair in some circumstances regardless of the inmate’s wishes, if injection drugs are not available, but all of the 32 states that have the death penalty primarily use lethal injection.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in a 2008 Kentucky case in which the high court said there is no constitutional right to a painless execution.

Under Oklahoma law, if lethal injection is declared unconstitutional, the state would switch to electrocution. If both of those methods are determined unconstitutional, a firing squad is a third option.

Christian said he intends to explore whether to change the law to make a firing squad the second option, and if inmates should be allowed to select the method. He said any law change likely wouldn’t apply to the 50 Oklahoma inmates already sentenced to die by lethal injection.

State Rep. Aaron Stiles, a Norman Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he’s interested in Christian’s study. He has said in the past that he supports looking at alternative options for executions, including a firing squad.

Christian plans to solicit testimony from experts in Utah, the last state to use a firing squad when it executed inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. Five executioners armed with .30-caliber rifles stood about 25 feet from Gardner and fired at a white target pinned to his chest. One rifle was loaded with a blank so no one knows who fired the fatal shot.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy .

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