Utah death row inmate Michael Archuleta has opted for death by firing squad instead of the usual lethal injection, officials said Thursday. Fourth District Judge Donald Eyre on Wednesday signed such a death warrant for Michael A. Archuleta, 49.
But the April 5 execution may not come to pass, considering Archuleta still make can federal appeals.
Assistant Attorney General Tom Brunker said Archuleta, when convicted in 1989, did not request a specific manner of execution, and was not legally entitled to die by firing squad. But the state did not object Wednesday to Archuleta’s request, although it reserves the right to ask for lethal injection, Brunker said.
Archuleta was convicted, along with Lance Wood, of the 1988 beating and murder of Gordon Ray Church in Cedar City. Archuleta and Wood met the 28-year-old victim at a convenience store to engage in sexual acts with him. At some point, the trio stopped what they were doing, and Wood and Archuleta bound Church, shoved him into a trunk, and drove him 80 miles away. According to reports, they attached battery jumper cables to Church’s testicles and tried to electrocute him, before beating him with a tire iron and eventually killing him.
If carried out, Archluleta’s execution would make him the fourth to die by firing squad since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
In Utah, five anonymous marksmen, each with a matching .30-caliber rifle, are used in firing squads.
They stand behind a wall cut with two gunports, said corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke. One of the rifles will hold an “ineffective” round, similar to a blank, which delivers the same recoil as a live round.
The marksmen fire from a distance of 25 feet. The inmate is blindfolded and strapped to a chair with a target pinned to his chest.