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Florida lawmaker proposes firing squads for death row inmates

TALLAHASSEE — At least one Florida lawmaker wants to test the limits of cruel and unusual punishment with what he calls a "lead cocktail."

Rep. Brad Drake, a Republican from the Panhandle town of Eucheeanna, has filed legislation to introduce firing squads to Florida's death row.

The idea, Drake said, grew out of a recent controversy surrounding the state's new lethal injection practice. Last month, Manuel Valle was executed with a cocktail of drugs never before used in a Florida execution. The drug pentobarbital knocks inmates unconscious before a second drug paralyzes them and a third stops the heart.

Several activists and medical professionals, including pentobarbital's maker, protested its use prior to Valle's execution, arguing that the drug fails to adequately sedate inmates.

Drake said he was tired of all the talk about how to properly execute someone on death row, so he had an idea — get rid of lethal injection and let inmates choose between the electric chair or a firing squad.

He drafted the bill after overhearing lunchtime chatter at a Waffle House in support of execution by firing squad.

"I say let's end the debate. We still have 'Old Sparky.' And if that doesn't suit the criminal, then we will provide them a .45-caliber lead cocktail instead," said Drake, a marketing executive who was first elected to the House in 2008.

Here's how Drake, 36, put it in an interview with the Florida Current: "There shouldn't be anything controversial about a .45-caliber bullet. If it were up to me, we would just throw them off the Sunshine Skyway bridge and be done with it."

The bill would give a death row prisoner 30 days to opt for a firing squad execution after the Supreme Court affirms a death penalty sentence. If the inmate did not choose a firing squad, the inmate would be electrocuted. The prison warden would determine how many executioners would be on the firing squad.

Oklahoma is the only state where a death-by-bullet law remains on the books. Utah scrapped its firing squad provision in 2004, but a handful of death row inmates convicted before that time still face death by bullet because the bill was not retroactive.

The Florida proposal hasn't gone over well with anti-death-penalty groups, who are using it as an opportunity to highlight their position against the state's use of the death penalty.

"The act of killing a captive prisoner is inhumane, no matter how it's carried out," said Mark Elliot, executive director of Tampa-based Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Drake said he hopes his bill starts a new conversation about the death penalty.

"You've got to start somewhere. There's been a lot of controversial issues that took years and years and years to pass," he said. "I say let's have this conversation."

Florida lawmaker proposes firing squads for death row inmates 10/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 11:12pm]
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