SCOTUS Sides With Inmate Who Asked for Firing Squad

Michael Wade Nance says lethal injection would be unusually painful for him
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2020 5:20 PM CST
Updated Jun 24, 2022 3:18 AM CDT
Condemned Killer: Let Me Die the Old-Fashioned Way
Michael Wade Nance.   (Georgia Dept. of Corrections)

Update: The Supreme Court has narrowly ruled in favor of a condemned Georgia inmate who has requested death by firing squad because he has a medical condition that would make lethal injection a long and extremely painful process. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that Michael Nance could proceed with a civil rights lawsuit challenging the execution method, Fox reports. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who wrote the dissent, argued that because firing squads aren't currently a legal execution method in Georgia, Nance's lawsuit "implies the invalidity of his lethal injection sentence." Our original story from Jan. 11, 2020 follows:

Michael Wade Nance wants to die like convicts used to. The condemned killer, who's sitting on death row in Georgia, is asking for a firing squad. "Execution by firing squad is both swift and virtually painless," says his federal lawsuit, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Evidence and recent experience strongly suggest that the firing squad is significantly more reliable than lethal injection." What's more, Nance says, his medical conditions could make injection unusually painful. He claims that his scarred and thin-walled veins are hard to locate and could leak during the procedure, per CNN, causing a "prolonged execution that will produce excruciating pain."

He also says his back-pain drug has changed his brain chemistry and could weaken the effect pentobarbital, a sedative in the lethal-injection "cocktail." Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter doesn't seem to object: "If he needs a firing squad, then let him have it," he says. "It's certainly a unique request." But Georgia officially stopped using firing squads in 1924, when it switched to the electric chair; a 2001 state Supreme Court ruling then forced the use of lethal injection. And no one's been executed by firing squad in America since 2010 in Utah, per CBS 42. Nance was condemned to death in 2002 for fatally shooting a man after committing a bank robbery. (More firing squad stories.)

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