Daniel LaChance Publishes Article in ‘The Conversation’

Professor LaChance, Assistant Professor in the Emory History Department, published an article in The Conversation titled “Utah’s firing squad plan is another twist in America’s long quest for a perfect execution method.”

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Shooting people kills them more quickly and reliably than electrocuting, gassing, or poisoning them. But it’s harder to watch or read about than lethal injection.

The raw violence of the act puts it at odds with the aesthetic values that have historically shaped the development of capital punishment in the United States. Guns uncomfortably blur the line between the righteous violence of the state and the lawless violence of the criminal. The gun is, historically speaking, the only instrument of execution that is also commonly used by criminals. Its use in executions reminds us of a past in which there was less of a distinction between the state that carried out the law and those it punished.

Indeed, in its jarring loudness, its bloodiness, and its mutilating effects on the body, execution by firing squad comes much closer to expressing the “eye for an eye” logic that has long stoked Americans’ demand for the death penalty, but that has, since the nineteenth century, been carefully excised from its actual administration.

That, in the end, is what is most newsworthy about Utah’s decision to return to the gun. In the violent imagery it conjures, execution by firing squad has the power to remind Americans of a simple truth that lethal injection has, for a long time, made it easy for them to forget: executions are acts of extreme, body-mutilating violence.