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Judge argues for return of firing squad executions

Alex Kozinski

Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Alex Kozinski poses for a portrait in the lobby of a Washington office building, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Kozinski, an influential federal appeals court judge said that the nation's third lethal injection execution to go awry in six months underscores his call to bring back firing squads. Kozinski said lethal injection was a "dishonest" attempt to disguise the brutal nature of capital punishment. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

By
From page A1 | July 25, 2014 |

SAN FRANCISCO — An influential federal appeals court judge said Thursday that the nation’s third lethal injection execution to go awry in six months underscores his call to bring back firing squads.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said lethal injection was a “dishonest” attempt to disguise the brutal nature of capital punishment.

Kozinski first wrote of his distaste for lethal injection in a decision Monday, even while arguing against delaying the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III in Phoenix. Wood gasped for breath for more than 90 minutes and took nearly two hours to die Wednesday after receiving a lethal injection for killing his estranged girlfriend and her father.

Kozinski said properly trained firing squads are a “foolproof” way to quickly execute an inmate and avoid complications surrounding lethal injection.

In a dissent to Monday’s ruling that put Wood’s execution on hold but was overturned by the Supreme Court, Kozinski wrote: “Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful – like something any one of us might experience in our final moments. But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

On Thursday, Kozinski said that he never liked lethal injection, a method that has been dogged by drug shortages and legal challenges. He said firing squads would never be hampered by a shortage of guns or bullets.

“I’ve always thought executions should be executions,” he told the AP, “not medical procedures.”

Kozinski said he supports capital punishment but states and the federal government should abandon lethal injection and adopt a different method. He mentioned the guillotine as another “foolproof” method but said he doubted the public would accept that form of execution.

Kozinski is a reliable conservative vote on the left-leaning 9th Circuit and is known for his well-written and often-provocative opinions. He wrote about grappling with a penalty case for The New Yorker magazine in 1997.

He was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 10 comments

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  • CD BrooksJuly 25, 2014 - 5:41 am

    LOVE this guy! The do-gooders won't like the blood...tough. This needs doing now, let's roll!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • truth'nJuly 25, 2014 - 7:00 am

    I say kill 'em in the same fashion they killed. Stab, shoot, bludgeon, poison, drown, run 'em down with a car, ... whatever. That would be justice.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • AlfJuly 25, 2014 - 7:33 am

    The judge is spot on. An execution is not a medical procedure, it's a state killing. How do you kill someone in a way is not cruel or unusual punishment? I would argue that all killing is cruel. Lethal injection is unusual. But if we are going to carry out this type of punishment, he is correct, firing squad and guillotine are guarantees someone dies surely and quickly. I personally favor the guillotine. That might actually prove a deterrent.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • What's this aboutJuly 25, 2014 - 9:05 am

    A hell of a lot cheaper!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FF64July 25, 2014 - 9:17 am

    I volunteer my services and will do ten a day until "Condemned Roe" is vacant!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 25, 2014 - 10:18 am

    FF64, I'm guessing you could round up plenty of volunteers! COOL, that settle that part of the issue. Curious...How do you feel about one shooter, one strategically placed bullet? Cheaper, effective and quick. LINE 'EM UP! :)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MarkJuly 25, 2014 - 10:52 am

    why waste the bullets? guillotine them, fast, effective and reusable.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 25, 2014 - 10:59 am

    Mark, I'm good with anything. Even two-hour suffering doesn't bother me. My problem is there aren't enough done quickly enough. Sorry for the anti crowd, we are bound to make mistakes. Yes, If I'm somehow sentenced I'd have to take my medicine. I don't usually put myself in a position to have such charges brought, but then I'm not a career criminal either...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • antiBOB,jazzAZZand anythingelseshecallsitselfJuly 25, 2014 - 8:29 pm

    The views expressed are nothing more than schoolboy bravado by the Walter Mittys in the crowd, or they are very disturbed and will become more so.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mikeJuly 25, 2014 - 8:36 pm

    Look you guys I don't think any one of you have the guts including myself. I do believe an eye for an eye and capital/corporal punishment. Chain gangs can help the economy better than sitting in prison playing a guitar. But dead is dead no matter how you deal it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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