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State Legislature Set to Permit Execution by Firing Squad


Idaho lawmakers passed legislation that would allow death row inmates to be executed by firing squad when no lethal-injection drugs are available.

The bill passed with a veto-proof majority, so the governor must sign the bill into law.

Idaho joins Utah, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and South Carolina as the five states to permit firing squad executions, according to Insider Paper.

From Insider Paper:

The bill, approved by the Senate of the conservative state by 24 votes in favor to 11 against, must now be signed into law by the governor.

Idaho would the become the fifth US state to approve execution by firing squad, after Utah, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and South Carolina, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Since 1976 and the end of a brief moratorium on the death penalty in the United States, two men and a woman have been executed in this way — all in Utah, also in the west. The last one was 2010.

The US states which have the death penalty have been experiencing great difficulty in obtaining the chemical components necessary for a lethal injection, due to opposition by pharmaceutical companies which do not want to be associated with executions.

Death by firing squad would occur in Idaho only if a lethal injection were not possible.

AP added:

President Joe Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, ordered a temporary pause on federal executions in 2021 while the Justice Department reviewed protocols. Garland did not say how long the moratorium will last.

Idaho Sen. Doug Ricks, a Republican who co-sponsored that state’s firing squad bill, told his fellow senators Monday that the state’s difficulty in finding lethal injection drugs could continue “indefinitely” and that he believes death by firing squad is “humane.”

“This is a rule of law issue — our criminal system should work and penalties should be exacted,” Ricks said.

But Sen. Dan Foreman, also a Republican, said firing-squad executions would traumatize the people who who carry them out, the people who witness them and the people who clean up afterward.

“I’ve seen the aftermath of shootings, and it’s psychologically damaging to anybody who witnesses it,” Foreman said. “The use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho.”

The bill originated with Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, prompted in part by the state’s inability to execute Gerald Pizzuto Jr. late last year. Pizzuto, who now has terminal cancer and other debilitating illnesses, has spent more than three decades on death row for his role in the 1985 slayings of two gold prospectors.

The Idaho Department of Correction estimates it will cost around $750,000 to build or retrofit a death chamber for firing squad executions.

Agency Director Jeff Tewalt last year told lawmakers there would likely be as many legal challenges to planned firing squad executions as there are to lethal injections. At the time, he said he would be reluctant to ask his staffers to participate in a firing squad.


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