Georgia Criminal Law Review

Document Type



Recently, there have been a number of incarcerated people on death-row challenging their method of execution and proposing an alternative: usually, firing squad. Courts are hesitant to grant this request for a number of reasons, including the rare use of the firing squad. But there is substantial evidence this method is the most humane. Additionally, it appears incarcerated people think so, which is why so many in recent years chose—or petitioned for—death by firing squad rather than lethal injection or electrocution. As pharmaceutical companies halt their drugs’ distribution to prisons, prisons are forced to come up with their own—often more dangerous and less humane—drug cocktails, or revert back to the use of the electric chair, which has led to many botched and painful executions. Questions about the humaneness of execution methods the United States has used for more than fifty years are once again being raised. Already, there are some states, including Alabama and South Carolina, who allow for incarcerated people to petition for a method of execution other than the standard, and the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that incarcerated people can file a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 petition to receive an execution method their state does not currently provide.

While this mid-point is a step in the right direction, many of these petitions for alternative methods of execution are denied; some of those incarcerated people who petitioned and were denied another method ended up experiencing painful, inhumane deaths. Society’s interest in humaneness demands serious consideration on widespread availability of the firing squad as a method of execution for incarcerated people on death row. This Note will specifically argue that the Eighth Amendment demands an incarcerated person’s right to choose how he dies.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons