Execution by firing squad

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Execution by firing squad, sometimes called fusilading (from the French fusil, rifle), is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war.

Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice. Some reasons for its use are that firearms are usually readily available and a gunshot to a vital organ usually kills the prisoner relatively quickly. Before the introduction of firearms, bows or crossbows were often used — Saint Sebastian is usually depicted as executed by a squad of Roman auxiliary archers.

A firing squad is usually composed of several soldiers or law enforcement officers. Usually, all members of the group are instructed to fire simultaneously, thus preventing both disruption of the process by a single member and identification of the member who fired the lethal shot. The prisoner is typically blindfolded or hooded, as well as restrained, although in some cases prisoners have asked to be allowed to face the firing squad without their eyes covered. Executions can be carried out with the condemned either standing or sitting. There is a tradition in some jurisdictions that such executions are carried out at first light, or at sunrise, which is usually up to half an hour later. This gave rise to the phrase "shot at dawn", which has become particularly associated with the campaign (see below) to achieve a pardon for British servicemen shot after being convicted of cowardice in World War I.

Execution by firing squad is distinct from other forms of execution by firearms, such as an execution by a single firearm to the back of the head or neck. However, the single shot (coup de grâce) is sometimes incorporated in a firing squad execution, particularly if the initial volley turns out not to be immediately fatal.


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