Firing squad option triggers House, Senate disagreement

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Whether or not the state will be able to execute people using a firing squad will be a central question for House and Senate negotiators in the coming days.

A House bill, which originally allowed the death penalty to be carried out by firing squad, is heading to a joint House and Senate conference committee Monday afternoon, giving both houses the chance to come to an agreement.

In its original language, House Bill 638 would allow the death penalty to be administered through a lethal anesthetic or sedative, chemical paralytic agent, potassium chloride or similar substance, nitrogen hypoxia (gas chamber), firing squad or electrocution.

On Monday, House Judiciary B chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, asked that the bill be invited to conference.

“The Senate took out some of the methods of execution and we want to continue that conversation,” Gipson said.

The bill passed the House on Feb. 8, but the Senate removed the firing squad as an execution method. The Senate Judiciary A committee voted almost unanimously to remove the provision.

Carl Gary Simmons Jr. was the last person put to death in Mississippi, in June 2012.

The bed where Mississippi prisoners are currently put to death using lethal injection. Court challenges have halted executions in Mississippi and other states in recent years.

Since then, as states have run out of supplies of execution drugs and several lawsuits challenged the use of other chemicals, executions have been delayed in Mississippi and other states.

The provisions of House Bill 638 state that if chemicals that replace the traditional injection cocktail — pentobarbital, a muscle relaxer and potassium chloride — meet legal resistance, an alternative sequence would be used.

Gipson’s motion to send the bill to a conference committee succeeded with no debate. Now, its fate will be decided by three members from both the Senate and House, all appointed by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn.