Could Bryan Kohberger face a firing squad in the Idaho stabbings case?

  • Idaho law now allows for firing squads to execute death row inmates
  • If convicted Brian Kohberger could face the death penalty, therefore, a firing squad
  • Expert: There have been problems with firing squads

(NewsNation) — As the Idaho governor signed into law a bill allowing firing squads to execute death row inmates, the focus is now on the fate of Idaho murder suspect Bryan Kohberger.

There is a raging debate across this country and it’s almost 50/50 for and against the death penalty.

But if there is a death penalty, there’s an even bigger debate on how to carry it out. Idaho has had the debate and solved it.

Republican Gov. Brad Little signed a bill allowing execution by firing squad, making Idaho the latest state to turn to older methods of capital punishment amid a nationwide shortage of lethal-injection drugs.

This means if Brian Kohberger is convicted of murdering the four University of Idaho college students in Moscow, Idaho, he could face the death penalty. And if the sentence is death, he could face the firing squad.

There are so many questions to consider on how it’s carried out: Who are the marksman? Who gets the blank? Who gets the live rounds?

These are all ramifications for those who actually take part in the shooting.

The Department of Corrections though is concerned about trying to get people to act as the firing squad, because of the psychological damage it can do to the people who actually hold the guns.

Questions remain on what it will actually look like when inmates are strapped to the chair.

Some people would find it upsetting offensive, wrong, or inhumane. Other people would say the firing squad is exactly what this country needs.

NewsNation is told that there is already a group of officials looking into constructing a firing squad facility at a cost of $750,000.

It was a choice by an inmate named Ronnie Lee Gardner, and here’s how it worked. Gardner was executed by firing squad in Draper, Utah, in 2010. 

When he decided he would choose the firing squad, he was hooded, and he was strapped to a metal chair. Then there was a target that was taped to his heart. He faced a wall 25 feet away. And behind the wall were five anonymous marksmen.

Each of the marksmen took a shot at Ronnie Lee Gardner. Four of them had bullets. One of them had blanks. Within two minutes, Ronnie Lee Gardner was pronounced dead by the Utah Department of Corrections.

This is the backup method for Idaho now. This is the way Idaho condemned could end up meeting their fate, like Brian Kohberger’s and maybe Chad Daybell, if they’re convicted.

An Idaho defense attorney says this is inhumane and it is barbaric. Some others say it traumatizes the witnesses or even those who actually are the marksmen that have to carry it out.

A certified death investigator NewsNation has spoken to says it is the most humane method, actually, because it is fast and effective, with no chance of botching it. That’s not always the case with drugs.

“Well, lethal injections have become very problematic in the U.S.,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and civil and human rights attorney. “They used to be very routine and people went to sleep and were executed fairly quickly with little controversy.”

Dieter says drug companies have refused to set sell their drugs for executions and the doctors and nurses don’t want to participate in executions as well.

“So you have a procedure with experimental drugs, unproven drugs, administered by people with not the experience you might find in a hospital,” Dieter said. “But people who work in the correctional facility so things are not going well. With lethal injection, it has its own problems, of course, being shot. It’s also a rather horrible experience to go through as well. I’m sure.”

If you’re shot and the target is over your heart, does it stop your heart or do you bleed out?

“I am no doctor to know that precisely,” Dieter said. “But I can say that there have been problems with firing squads, you know, they’re used occasionally in the military and on battlefields, and sometimes the heart is missed. And of course, then it’s bleeding out. Or sometimes the person, you know, goes on breathing and you know, is not quite dead despite being shot. And we know that that happens in society outside of the firing squad. So things can go wrong.”

Dieter says the biggest problem with firing squads is the shock.

“What we’re asking victims families to go through to watch someone else be shot by five people, while the family of the person being shot is also standing by and you blow them away with five rifles,” Dieter said. “That is not going to sit well with anyone, regardless of what happens to the individual.”

The debate over firing squads will more than likely end up as a Supreme Court.

Idaho College Killings

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