Sitting atop Governor Phil Bryant’s desk is a litany of bills waiting to be signed into law. One of those, House Bill 638, would give Mississippi more options to carry out the death penalty.
The bill was drafted as a response to a nationwide controversy over the use of barbiturates in the concoction administered through lethal injection. These drugs were found to be inhumane in many states, and the production of them dwindled.
The last lethal injection performed in Mississippi was in 2012.
Because Mississippi is a death penalty state, there had to be methods on the law books by which the death penalty could be carried out, in the event that the lethal injection were to ever be outlawed.
HB 638 provides for the gas chamber, the electric chair, and the firing squad to be used as methods of execution.
Currently, Mississippi is only partially equipped to utilize one of those methods.
“We have a gas chamber, last used in the 80s, that we could get equipped rather cheap,” said House Ways and Means Chair Jeff Smith.
The electric chair and the firing squad would both cost the state a little more to establish.
“Our former electric chair is in a museum, we’d have to get one,” said Smith. “And the firing squad–it wouldn’t be seven men, the blanks, and the shot to the heart.”
Smith said the firing squad method could be automated, where the push of a button sets off the shots, instead of having people responsible for pulling the trigger.
A former prosecutor, Smith said inmates may one day have the option of the execution method.
“They may one day say “pick your poison,'” said Smith. “And one may opt for the firing squad, to get it over with.”
Smith said he has been at the gas chamber where executions were once carried out.
“It is almost hard to talk about,” said Smith. “But there have to be methods.”
Smith said there are no current concrete prices as to how much it would cost to establish the methods in the state.