Miss. lawmakers consider gas chamber, firing squads, electrocution as execution methods

(Courtesy: WJTV)

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Lawmakers are considering changes to how Mississippi executes prisoners sentenced to death.

Attorney General Jim Hood talked with WJTV about why he supports the proposal.

House Bill 638 would change the method used in executions. Right now, lethal injection is Mississippi’s only execution method.

The bill says if lethal injection isn’t available, the execution could be carried out by gas chamber. If that’s not available, it would be a firing squad; and if that’s not available, it would be electrocution.

“I’ve said many times, my wife doesn’t believe in the death penalty and I respect that. It’s my job to enforce the law, and I’m going to support legislation that allows me to enforce the law and if we’re going to have it as a law, then we’re going to enforce it and if not, the Legislature, they can vote it out.”

AG Hood said he’s primarily concerned with the language of the law and wants to see “fast-acting barbiturates” removed.

Hood said there are no longer any barbiturates available on the market and changing the language would allow other drugs to be used in lethal injection.
“States and countries are moving away from it,” said Blake Feldman, Criminal Justice Advocate of the ACLU of MS. “It’s been on the decline for 40 years, but what’s really troubling is we’re going back to even more barbaric methods.”

Feldman calls the legislation shameful. He’s also afraid that drugs, like midazolam, would be used and cause a painful death.

Feldman also opposes the other methods in the bill.

“It’s really unfortunate and shameful that the state of Mississippi is right now considering legislation to go back to that.”

However, Hood says that other methods, like firing squads, are not illegal.

“Those have been approved by the United States Supreme Court,” Hood said. “No. I wouldn’t have a problem if it’s an alternative means necessary.”

The Death Penalty Information Center says of the 33 states with the death penalty, only Oklahoma and Utah have firing squad as an option.

In Mississippi, there hasn’t been an execution since 2012 when there were six.

The bill passed the House amid opposition Wednesday. The vote was 74 to 44. It now moves to the Senate.