[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] on Friday denied an appeal by 74-year-old death row inmate Ron Lafferty to place a hold on his federal case to challenge his execution by firing squad. Lafferty is one of the longest-serving prisoners on death row in Utah and is scheduled to be executed by firing squad. Lafferty’s counsel argued he was not legally competent when he chose to be executed by firing squad 30 years earlier, and this execution method violates his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment [text]. In Friday’s opinion, the judge held that the Supreme Court is yet to declare [NYT report] a state’s chosen method of execution cruel and unusual. In March 2015, Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] to restore the firing squad as a method of execution. Utah is the only state in the US that allows for death by firing squad [AP report] if lethal injection drugs are not available. Friday’s ruling still allows Lafferty to pursue his case in Utah state court.
Use of the death penalty has been a controversial issue throughout the US in 2015. In a JURIST op-ed, guest columnist John D. Bessler discusses new changes in the evolution of capital punishment [JURIST op-ed]. Last month an Oklahoma appeals court granted an emergency stay of execution [JURIST report] for inmate Richard Glossip several hours before he was scheduled for his sentence. In June the US Supreme Court held that the use of the drug midazolam may be used in executions [JURIST report] without violating the constitution. In April the Tennessee Supreme Court had postponed the execution [JURIST report] of four inmates on death row while it determines whether current protocols are constitutional, effectively halting all executions in the state. Also in April, the Delaware Senate voted to repeal the death penalty [JURIST report], but the legislation includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently on death row.