Put to Death: A History of U.S. Executions
Making a Killing
A history of execution methods in the United States
By Kevin P. Robillard
On June 18, 2010, convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, shown here at a commutation hearing, became the third man to die by firing squad since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. He’s likely to be the last. Utah is one of only two states that still allow the firing squad—Oklahoma is the other—and both tightly restrict it. In the Utah, only prisoners who chose the squad prior to its 2004 elimination can elect to die by the bullet. In Oklahoma, the option will only be available if lethal injection is ever declared unconstitutional. But they aren’t the only states who still allow some shocking execution methods. The United States has had five legal options for the death penalty, and all are still in place in some states today, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Each were steps along the way towards a more humane (if that’s possible) and private execution process. Click through for an explanation of why each was adopted, and why most states eventually chose to abandon them.