Explanation For UT Firing Squad Request: “Blood Atonement”


After convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner announced his intention to be executed by firing squad, national and international reporters suggested it was a throwback to the wild, wild West, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Some Utahns had a different explanation for why such an anachronistic execution technique remained an option in the 21st century: blood atonement.

The term refers to a Latter Day Saints belief that a murderer must shed his own blood — literally — to be forgiven by God. Since Mormon pioneers first entered the valley in 1847 until today, most of Utah’s formal executions (until recent decades) have been by firing squad, which is a lot bloodier than hanging or lethal injection.

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