updated 1/3/2004 4:23:15 PM ET 2004-01-03T21:23:15

Utah could ban firing squads and execute condemned prisoners only by lethal injection — but not on Sundays, Mondays or holidays — under bills submitted for the upcoming legislative session.

Utah is the only state that uses firing squads. Three current death row inmates have chosen to die by firing squad rather than injection.

State Sen. Ron Allen and state Rep. Sheryl Allen introduced the companion bills in the House and Senate aimed at abolishing the firing squad. The Allens are not related.

The Utah Sentencing Commission said in August it would support eliminating the firing squads. Commission members said firing-squad executions have become publicity magnets that tend to focus attention on death-row inmates instead of their victims.

“We’re making a hero out of some idiot that’s destroyed families,” said Sevier County Sheriff Phil Barney, a member of the sentencing commission.

The state’s last firing squad execution, in 1996, drew more than 150 television crews from around the world.

If enacted, the ban would mean inmates who already have chosen to die by firing squad could not avail themselves of that option.

“I don’t think it’s right that felons convicted of a capital felony should have a choice,” Ron Allen said Friday. “Their victims had no choice.”

The Utah Department of Corrections has taken no position on the firing squad bill, introduced in December for the session that begins Jan. 19, said spokesman Jack Ford. But the department requested another bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Valentine, that would prohibit executions on Sundays, Mondays or holidays.

That would allow the department to avoid paying overtime for officers preparing for the execution, Ford said.

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